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, February 28, 2007

Households must treat own wastewater

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Extensive groundwater contamination has left the city administration with no other choice but to instruct each household to install an onsite wastewater treatment system.

The measure was stipulated in a 2005 gubernatorial decree on wastewater management, but has yet to be enforced.

"Gray water, which has been polluted with synthetic detergents, is routinely poured down the drain. This comprises 80 percent of groundwater pollution," Dulles Manurung, the head of the licensing division of the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD), told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The agency will initially target upscale residential areas, such as Pondok Indah in South Jakarta.

"Homeowners must replace traditional septic tanks with onsite wastewater disposal systems," Dulles added.

The 2005 decree requires all homeowners to treat gray and black (flushed) water before disposing of it.

Gray water includes wastewater from bathtubs, showers, washbasins, washing machines and kitchens, whereas black water is from toilets.

It says gray water should be left to stand before being channeled into the treatment facility.

The decree will affect both new and old houses across the city.

Dulles estimated there were septic tanks in more than four million homes across the city.

"It is difficult for us to change people's habits because septic tanks have been used for over 400 years now, but we have to do it to save the environment."

He said installing a wastewater treatment facility would cost Rp 2.9 million per unit, lower than the price of a septic tank at Rp 3.2 million.

The National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) earlier said the more than 10 million people living in Jakarta each produced between 875 grams and 1.75 kilograms of feces every week.

However, there are only about 220,000 buildings, mainly in Central Jakarta, which use the piped wastewater facilities established by city sewerage company PD PAL.

The figure is far below that of other Asian capital cities. All of Seoul's 9.7 million residents uses piped sewerage, 35 percent of Bangkok's population does and in Manila, 16 percent of the population use official means of treating waste.

The mandatory use of wastewater treatment facilities also applies to the operators of hotels, apartments, private and state offices as well as shopping malls.

"We will also check the buildings and withdraw the business permits of operators who have failed to build wastewater treatment facilities on their premises," Dulles said.

He added that developers who wanted to build housing complexes were required to establish communal sanitation systems.

"We are in the process of certifying 13 companies to produce the wastewater treatment facilities. It will then be up to the building operators or homeowners to make their selections," he said.

More than half of the city's inhabitants rely on groundwater for their daily water needs.

The administration has said groundwater collected from a depth of less than 40 meters is no longer safe to drink.

Health Ministry data shows that of every 1,000 babies born in the city, 50 die of diarrheal diseases, often caused by drinking water polluted with fecal matter.

Aside from the poor quality, the supply of groundwater to Jakarta has posed a serious problem to the city. Water shortages have come to be an inevitable part of the dry season, while flooding affects large areas of the city in the rainy season.

Last week, the administration launched a campaign to promote the use of percolation pits to harvest rainwater and replenish groundwater reserves.

The owners of buildings with a roof area exceeding 50 square meters are required to build a pit that can hold 2,000 liters of water.

Uniflora to build cocoa processing plant in Banten, Indonesia

Serang, Banten (ANTARA News/Asia Pulse) - PT Uniflora is planning to invest around US$2 billion in the establishment of a cocoa processing plant in Serang district, Banten province, according to a company official.

"Hopefully, the plant will employ thousands of workers when it is operational," Serang district head Taufik Nuriman said on Wednesday.

Indonesia is the world's third biggest cocoa producer after the Ivory Coast and Ghana,

producing around 400,000 tons of cocoa a year, 70 per cent of which is exported.

The processing plant is expected to contribute to the development of the country's cocoa-based industries, Nuriman said.

Britain's BP to build biofuel plants in Indonesia

Jakarta (ANTARA News/Asia Pulse) - British oil giant BP plans to invest around US$50 million in Indonesia's biofuel industry, using jatropha oil as feedstock.

BP will build biofuel plants with an annual capacity of 350,000 tons for which it will need to set up jatropha curcas plantations covering 100,000 hectares of land, to guarantee supply of feedstock, an official said.

Chairman of the national team for biofuel development Al Hilal Hamdi said BP, which is set to dominate the global biofuel industry, has also developed India's jatropha-oil-based biofuel sector.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Indocement, IPB to farm jatropha

BOGOR (JP) : Listed cement producer PT Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa Tbk has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) to develop a jatropha curcus plantation.

Under the MoU, the IPB will provide seeds while the company will grow the plant on 30 hectares of its land.

President director of Indocement Daniel Lavalle said that the program was aimed at increasing the use of alternative fuels in the company.

"This is in line with the government's program to increase the use of renewable energy and with our Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)," he said.

The CDM is part of the Kyoto Protocol and allows companies in developing countries to host greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs.

The host company then receives a certificate of emissions reduction from the United Nations executive body based on the amount of carbon reduction points that can then be sold to rich countries.

Indocement is the first Indonesian company to implement a CDM project and it has been listed at the executive board of the United Nations.

Jatropha curcas oil produces energy almost equal to that produced by diesel oil. --JP

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quake at 5.5 on Richter scale jolts Maluku

JAKARTA (Antara): The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency recorded a tectonic earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale in Labuha subdistrict, Halmahera Selatan district, North Maluku province, at 1.53 am on Sunday.

The agency said the epicentre of the tremor was located at 67 kilometers west of Labuha in the depth of 44.3 kilometers from sea surface at the coordinates of 0.88 south latitude and 126.91east longitude.

A bigger quake (6.6 on the Richter scale) also occurred in Labuha on Tuesday (Feb 20) afternoon damaging tens of houses and public facilities.

Beyond The Green Corporation

Imagine a world in which eco-friendly and socially responsible practices actually help a company's bottom line. It's closer than you think

Businessweek Online

Under conventional notions of how to run a conglomerate like Unilever, CEO Patrick Cescau should wake up each morning with a laserlike focus: how to sell more soap and shampoo than Procter & Gamble Co. (PG ) But ask Cescau about the $52 billion Dutch-British giant's biggest strategic challenges for the 21st century, and the conversation roams from water-deprived villages in Africa to the planet's warming climate.

The world is Unilever's laboratory. In Brazil, the company operates a free community laundry in a São Paulo slum, provides financing to help tomato growers convert to eco-friendly "drip" irrigation, and recycles 17 tons of waste annually at a toothpaste factory. Unilever funds a floating hospital that offers free medical care in Bangladesh, a nation with just 20 doctors for every 10,000 people. In Ghana, it teaches palm oil producers to reuse plant waste while providing potable water to deprived communities. In India, Unilever staff help thousands of women in remote villages start micro-enterprises. And responding to green activists, the company discloses how much carbon dioxide and hazardous waste its factories spew out around the world.

Read More ....

Moderate quake rocks East Kalimantan

JAKARTA (JP): Earthquake measuring 5 Richter Scale Saturday hit East Kalimantan province. There is no immediate report of property damage and casualty.

Geology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) said at its website that the epicenter of the tremor occurring at 11.05 a.m. local time was located some 212 kilometers northwest of East Kalimantan's town of Tarakan.

BMG's earthquake center recorded that there were 27earthquakes measuring between 2.7 to 6.5 Richter Scale along February. The strongest quake occurred in North Maluku, sparking damage dozens of houses

Engineers abandon attempt to plug a gushing mud

The Jakarta Post

SURABAYA (AP): Indonesian engineers were forced to abandon an attempt to plug a gushing mud volcano by dropping cement balls into its crater on Saturday when a steel cable hoisting the balls broke, officials said.

Over the next few weeks, authorities plan to drop nearly 1,500 concrete balls, weighing up to 250 kilograms (500 pounds) each, into the geyser that started spewing noxious muck at an oil drilling field in east Java nine months ago.

A creeping sea of sediment has covered dozens of factories, thousands of homes, displaced 13,000 people and blocked major roads into the country's second largest city, Surabaya.A string of four balls was successfully lowered into the hole Saturday in heavy rain and wind, said Rudi Novrianto, a spokesman for a government task force handling the disaster.

"Thank God, we have managed to drop one chain, equipped with sensors to monitor pressure and depth," he said. "We had to halt the process because of the broken steel cable. We will continue tomorrow after repairing it."

It was the second set back in as many days after work was postponed on Friday without an explanation. Officials had hoped to drop between 5 and 10 strands of balls into the crater on Saturday.

"We can estimate that the balls have reached (a depth of) about 500 meters (yards)," said Satria Wicaksono, a physics expert at the Bandung Institute of Technology who is on the team supervising the work.

Proponents of the cement ball plan hope it will reduce the volume of mud by up to 70 percent, after surging at a rate equivalent to about a million oil drums a day.

Critics, however, doubt it will succeed and warn it could be dangerous or that deep underground pressure could push the mud up elsewhere.

Mud fissures occur naturally along volatile tectonic belts like the one running below Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago. But opinions differ about the cause of the latest rupture.."

U.S. born-Sumatran Rhino arrives in Indonesia

The Jakarta Post

WAY KAMBAS NATIONAL PARK, Lampung (AP): After traveling around the world by plane, ferry and truck, a Sumatran rhino born at a U.S. zoo slowly backed out of his crate into a sanctuary on his native island Wednesday.

Once settled in, Andalas will be groomed for his next task - breeding and helping save the critically endangered species from extinction.

The 5-year-old rhino was fed fresh green leaves upon arrival at Jakarta's international airport on Tuesday.

After a checkup, Andalas traveled through rain for another 12 hours by truck and ferry, arriving at a sanctuary on Sumatra island just before dawn, where females Rosa and Ratu were waiting.

Andalas was hosed down and placed in a special quarantine pen, covered by a mosquito net to avoid diseases transmitted by flies.

"He is young and still full of energy," said Arman Malonongan, Indonesia's director general of forest and wildlife conservation."Let's just hope he falls in love."

The Sumatran rhino is considered the most threatened of the five rhino species, with less than 300 still alive in isolated pockets in the forests of Malaysia and Sumatra, which is also home to endangered tigers and elephants.

Rampant poaching for its horns - used in traditional Chinese medicines - and destruction of forests by farmers, illegal loggers and palm oil plantation companies has decimated their numbers over the past 50 years.

Conservation groups say saving the Sumatran rhino from extinction is possible, noting sustained efforts in India and Africa have led to booming numbers of species in those countries.

But they say breeding programs like the one that is bringing Andalas back to Sumatra and greater political will to stop poaching and forest encroachments are essential if numbers are to recover.

Andalas was born in 2001 in the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the first time a calf was bred and born in captivity since 1889, when a live birth was recorded at the Calcutta Zoo in India.

"We persevered through five years of intensive effort and endured many setbacks before finally producing Andalas ... so it is hard to see him go," said Dr. Terri Roth, the zoo's vice president of conservation, science and living collections.

Yet, we want nothing more than to help save this species from extinction, and if that means giving up our first-born calf, then we will rejoice in the opportunity

Environmental groups attack World Bank for endorsing plantation plan

The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (AP): Environmental groups lashed out at a new World Bank report on Indonesia's forests Wednesday, saying it is an endorsement of a government plan to create vast timber plantations that would damage local ecosystems and livelihoods.

But the World Bank said the proposed strategy for the nation's resource-rich tropical forests until 2009 will "contribute to growth, rural livelihoods and environmental protection."

A sustainable logging industry, the World Bank said, will create jobs and reduce logging of endangered forest.

Indonesia's tropical forest reserves are the world's largest after the Amazon and the Congo basin, but the sprawling archaeologic nation has lost around 40 percent of its canopy to loggers in the last 50 years.

At the present rate of deforestation - with an area roughly the size of El Salvador being cleared annually - lowland trees on Sumatra island and neighboring Borneo will disappear by 2010, conservationists say.

Indonesia asked the World Bank to help devise a forestry plan and in June 2006 it released a 44-page outline. Wednesday's paper was a supplement to that strategy.

Activists with Friends of the Earth International,Environmental Defense and Indonesia's WALHI accused the global lender of prioritizing a government goal to create 5 million hectares of industrial timberplantation.

The giant plantations on Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo islands would deny small farmers access to land, pollute the soil with chemicals and turn the ecosystem into a monoculture for timber production, said Fara Sofa of WALHI.

"It changes the livelihood of the community and turns them from land owners to paid laborers," she said, adding they would worsen communal conflicts over land rights.

World Bank representatives were not available to comment to the specific allegations, but in the statement said "the report focuses on land and people, not forests and trees" and will improve forest management and biodiversity.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poor management worsening water deficit: Study

Anissa S. Febrina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakartans may think they have seen it all when it comes to environmental disasters, but it is a good bet that the worst is yet to come, a study reveals.

By 2015, the city will face a water supply deficit three times more severe than the current situation, the study -- which was released late last year by the National Development Planning Board's (Bappenas) water and irrigation directorate -- said.

It said that in less than a decade only 65 percent of the demand for water in the city could be met.

Climate change and poor water management are the main causes of the worsening water shortages.

In 2005, supply from both the city water operators and individual wells covered only 88 percent of demand.

With a projected population of 12 million people and increasing economic activity, Jakarta's annual demand for water will stand at around 660 million cubic meters by 2015.

By that year, the city will see a deficit of 274.4 million cubic meters, or more than 30 percent of the actual need for water.

Currently, the water deficit is covered by the exploitation of groundwater.

Residents continue to dig deeper in order to tap an ample supply of fresh water, while commercial building operators seek approval to extract groundwater from deeper levels.

It is estimated that about 41 percent of the some 10 million people now living in the city rely on groundwater for their daily water needs.

Ideally, only up to 40 percent of the potential groundwater reserve should be extracted. In 2005, groundwater extraction had reached 47.5 percent of the 532 million cubic meters of potential reserve.

Reckless groundwater exploitation is also said to be one of the causes of the water shortages as it has prompted land subsidence and salt water intrusion.

The diminishing number of water catchment areas is another contributor.

"If there is no infrastructure intervention, the shortages will get worse. The water deficit is also a cause of the heightened flood risk," the report said.

As the problem occurs not only in Jakarta, but all over Java, administrations should not seek solutions alone.

When the city faced tap water shortages last year due to the declining supply from Jatiluhur dam, city water operators quickly sought other sources, including from neighboring Tangerang.

The same scenario could not be applied should massive water shortages occur in 2015, as Tangerang -- and even water reserve areas like Depok and Bogor -- will also face higher water deficits.

Building infrastructure alone will not solve the problem, if there are no efforts to rehabilitate and conserve catchment areas, the report said.

It is a choice between action or reaction. Jakarta, make your choice.

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

The Jakarta Post


A new bajaj (three-wheeled pedicab) -- which takes compressed natural gas (CNG) -- is parked between two old bajaj Friday in Bulungan, South Jakarta.

(JP/Arief Suhardiman)

RI, U.S. sign tsunami warning pact

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The United States government is to help Indonesia establish a tsunami early warning system that could save lives in the event of another massive earthquake.

The Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration signed Friday an agreement that would sanction the establishment of a system for forecasting tsunamis and delivering warnings.

Under the agreement, the U.S. government will contribute in the construction of two tsunami detection buoy systems, the development of tsunami forecast modeling and training in tsunami detection technology.

The buoy systems will be launched in June and August this year.

Tsunami models can help emergency teams in potentially affected areas plan for events and educate residents on how to protect themselves in the event of a catastrophe.

The U.S. government will give US$1 million to help Indonesia develop the system.

The agreement was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and U.S. President George W. Bush last November about developing a multi-hazard warning system.

"Today's pledged partnership to develop an Indonesian tsunami warning system is one of the first major initiatives to come out of this important agreement," U.S. Embassy Charg‚ d'Affaires John Heffern said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Under the agreement, Indonesia and the U.S. will also join the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System.

This system, together with another deployed under a partnership with the Thai government, will help provide timely warnings for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean region.

Indonesia has been rocked by large-scale earthquakes in recent years, two of which resulted in devastating tsunamis, in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam in 2004 and Pangandaran, West Java, in 2006.

An earthquake-triggered tsunami in Aceh in December 2004 wreaked havoc around the rim of the Indian Ocean and killed around 165,000 people in Aceh and North Sumatra.

The tsunami damaged more than 800 kilometers of coastline and destroyed thousands of homes.

In Pangandaran, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that washed away the tourist destination, killing at least 650 people.

Experts have said that death toll from the 2004 tsunami could have been reduced if countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean had been in possession of an early warning system.

Walhi backs police fight against logging

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A leading environmental organization has praised police action against a company accused of illegal logging, but says it wants the authorities to take a harder line against the crime in the future.

The Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) said the organization supported National Police chief Gen. Sutanto in setting up a police line around the production area of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) after the company was suspected of illegal logging practices.

"This is what we have been waiting for. PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper has been exploiting the natural forest in Riau," Chalid Muhammad, the national executive director of Walhi, told reporters Friday.

"We hope the police will follow up this move by charging the company's directors as suspects," Chalid said, adding that the police chief should be consistent and not be afraid of officials who might be backing the company.

Troy Pantouw, PT RAPP's public relations manager, declined to comment on Walhi's accusations.

But he said that PT RAPP had always been careful in conducting its business and had always obeyed the government's regulations, including those on logging.

"Our company will be cooperative with the police and the authorities regarding the matter," Troy said when asked about the police's move to restrict the company's activities in Riau.

A coalition from the police's head office and the directorate general of forestry banned operations at the factory area of the company in Pangkalan Kerinci, Pelalawan regency in Riau on Thursday last week, Detik.com news portal reported.

PT Riau Pulp and Paper is a subsidiary of the Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings group, owned by Sukanto Tanoto, who is listed as Indonesia's wealthiest man by Forbes magazine.

Johny S. Mundung, Walhi executive director in Riau, also said that the police had made a big move against PT RAPP, one of the biggest pulp and paper players in the country.

He added that it was nothing new for the pulp and paper industry to use illegal logs from the country's forests.

According to Walhi, the pulp and paper industry in the country needs up to 27.71 million cubic meters of wood per year, some 80 percent of which comes from forests instead of industrial plantations.

Villagers reforest barren areas to improve lot

Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Klaces, Central Java

Villagers in Klaces, Nusakambangan, Central Java, have taken the initiative to reforest barren areas on the island with the hope that it will improve their economic situation.

Assisted by Yogyakarta-based environmental non-governmental organization Silvagama, Kaces villagers last month planted 5,000 acacia and alba seedlings. The acacia seedlings were planted in barren areas, while the alba seedlings were planted on steep banks of the forest for protection. Aside from acacia and alba, various fruit trees were also planted.

"Our principle is to till the barren land and at the same time re-green it," said Sangidun, a father of two.

Klaces is situated in the north-west of Nusakambangan island, which is also an incarceration site for high-profile criminals.

According to Silvagama, about 3,000 hectares of the island's 18,000 hectares of tropical forests are barren due to illegal logging and a series of failed projects.

In 1995, for example, a company owned by businesswoman Siti Hadiyati Rukmana, a daughter of former president Soeharto, cleared up to 1,000 hectares of forest on the island for a Cavendish banana project. The project, however, did not materialize.

"The government attempted to re-green the area. But the crops did not live long because no one took care of them. So the forest remains barren," said Sangidun, a Klaces resident.

Many of the trees planted for reforestation were illegally felled due to the poverty plaguing villagers. "As some of the villagers were unemployed, they had to illegally fell the trees to feed their families," Sangidun added.

Another villager, Sukirman, noted that there were two groups responsible for making areas in Nusakambangan barren. The first are loggers who earn between Rp 6,000 (approximately 67 U.S. cents) and Rp 8,000 for felling a four-meter-tall tree with a diameter of 30 centimeters. The second are transporters who carry logs from the forest to a motorized boat locally known as compreng. The transporters earn between Rp 8,000 and Rp 15,000 per tree.

"The profit is small and is hardly enough to buy traditional herbal medicine. But what else can they do? They are poor and are, on average, uneducated," Sukirman said.

Klaces villagers agreed last year to stop tree felling and to start re-greening in an attempt to improve their economic situation. Last month re-greening projects included planting fruit crops, which they hope they can harvest to earn money without having to fell trees.

And to raise money, the trees were sold to the villagers themselves. "The proceeds will be used for a fruit-tree nursery for the crops to be planted in the barren forest," Sukirman said.

"Without any economic incentives on the part of villagers, illegal felling will continue. As long as they are poor and have no means of living, they will continue to steal. The planting of these fruit crops is one effort to make the villagers maintain the forest sustainability and at the same time benefit from it," Sukirman stressed.

Another villager, Dimpil, 55, believes this program will be successful if the villagers are patient as it will take three to five years before any fruit can be harvested.

"We have proof. The fruit crops that I planted five years ago such as kedondong, rambutan and pete, have been harvested. In a year I can earn Rp 700,000 from the harvest," he said.

To meet their daily needs while waiting for the fruit crop harvest, the villagers can grow something on the barren land. "This will give them enough money to buy food," he said.

Meanwhile, Klaces village head Samino said as part of the local administration he could not officially give support to residents involved in the project. The legal position of Nusakambangan is still controversial, with the justice ministry and the Cilacap regency administration in Central Java still contesting ownership over the island.

"Officially, I cannot give my support from a village administration point of view. But I personally give my full support because the goal is good," Samino said.

Meanwhile, Unang of Silvagama said economic improvement was very important for the villagers. Because they live on an isolated island, villagers must buy daily necessities at high prices.

"All daily necessities like rice, sugar and cooking oil are more expensive here as additional transportation fees are required," Unang said.

Assistance from Silvagama, according to Unang, is aimed at strengthening the self-management ability of the villagers and not land ownership. It is expected that Nusakambangan island will be green again and the villagers can benefit from this.

"We are trying to convince the villagers that they can make use of the Nusakambangan area without damaging the environment," he stressed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

RI plans to launch intensive anti-haze campaign

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta


Driven by forecasts that this year's dry season will be longer because of the El Ni¤o weather pattern, the central government has allocated some Rp 602 billion to prevent haze.


The huge amount will be spent on an education campaign to get people to abandon slash and burn cultivation, enhancing law enforcement and managing peatland areas.


State Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said the funds were raised from state budgets through several ministries and local governments, as well donor countries, including from within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).


"We have to launch a concerted effort to tackle the problem," he said Thursday to an international conference on the implementation of Indonesia's action plan to tackle haze.


The conference was aimed at attracting international donors to contribute to solving the country's haze problem and coming up with input for an ASEAN environment ministers' meeting next week in Brunei Darussalam. The ASEAN meeting will be attended by representatives from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei as well as international agencies and other countries such as Australia.


ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong, who attended the conference, welcomed Indonesia's plan of action and supported cooperation between the local and central governments and ASEAN countries to tackle the problem.


"It's not a question of a lack of resources, it is a question of how you use the resources. People will put in more money if you have a good plan, leadership and commitment to solve the problem. ASEAN countries are prepared to commit resources, they just want to know how it is used," he said.


Besides the Indonesian government, several regional governments also experiencing haze problems presented their plans of action.


"We have to change the way people at the local level open up the land. They have to stop the slash and burn method. We will give (people) equipment to be able to cut down trees and bushes as well as chemicals to create natural fertilizer out of it," Rachmat said.


The Deputy Minister for Natural Resource Conservation and Environmental Control Masnellyarti Hilman said that anti-haze activities had already begun.


"We have conducted campaign programs and distributed equipment directly to farmers while the Agriculture Ministry is giving incentives in the form of free fertilizer to farmers who do not adopt slash and burn," she said.


The Forestry Ministry, Masnellyarty added, had formed groups of farmers and given them equipment to prevent and extinguish fires.


At the industrial level, Rachmat said that the government would not hesitate to punish plantation companies that use slash and burn methods.


"I warn the companies not to burn forest because this time we will be much tougher. We will arrest them and bring them to trial," he said.


Masnellyarti added that her office and local governments would conduct checks on companies to see if they have the required equipment and facilities to prevent and put down fires.


Last year, she said, there were 28 companies being investigated and prosecuted over forest burning.


"It is not easy to determine whether a particular company committed a crime. That's why we will train people at the local universities to be able to identify violations," Masnellyarti said.


Local governments and several ministries were expected to monitor remote areas, she added.


On peatland management, Rachmat said the government was preparing special regulations to deal with 1.3 million hectares of peatland in Kalimantan.


"Peatland is very easy to burn, contributing to forest fires and haze, if it is dried. So we must re-water it and keep the water level high. We will build dams to control the watering process. Also, only 93,000 hectares of the 1.3 million hectares can be cultivated, the rest will be turned into conservation areas," he said.


Miners in forest areas to be required to pay up-front compensation

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In the latest effort to improve protection of the country's rain forests, the government will require mining firms operating in both plantation and protected forests to make an up-front compensation payment for the destruction of forest cover and to cover any environmental damage their activities might cause.

It will also revoke a mining company's lease -- which is renewable every five years-- and rehabilitate the area if the firm is found to have abandoned the site, Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban said after a Thursday meeting on the issue with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, and Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman M. Lutfi.

The new policy comes against the backdrop of the House of Representatives's deliberations of the draft mining law, and the upcoming signing of a new investment deal worth US$1.2 billion in Pomala, South Sulawesi, with Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

It may also be seen as a compromise between the divergent interests of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry -- which wants to encourage more mining -- and the Forestry Ministry and State Ministry for the Environment -- both of which are concerned with protecting Indonesia's forests.

"I think this is a step forward. We've all agreed that those involved in mining in forest areas will have to take conservation and environmental aspects into consideration. Previously there was no mechanism requiring them to pay for this," Kaban said.

Further explaining the new policy, which will be put into effect through a regulation of the forestry minister issued in line with the proposed new mining law, Kaban said the amount of the forest compensation payment would be assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on how much forest was destroyed by each mining operation.

Those operating in protected areas will be required to pay more than those mining in forestry plantations, he said.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati had earlier proposed that the compensation payments be treated as local taxes for accounting purposes.

Kaban declined to say how much the compensation payments might amount to.

Purnomo said that assessments would be conducted by an inter-ministerial team under the coordination of the Vice President and senior government officials so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

Last year, the Forestry Ministry issued a regulation requiring every mining firm that wishes to operate in forest areas to provide compensatory land amounting to twice the area of the site on which it proposed to establish its mine. Those failing to comply with the requirement within a period of two years are required to pay a penalty amounting to 1 percent of their production values.

Mining firms and associations objected to the regulation, arguing it would impose too much of a burden on top of the royalties they already had to pay.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

World Bank urges Indonesia to act fast on forests

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia should act fast to better manage its rich forests to help reduce poverty and rural development, the World Bank said on Wednesday, adding the likelihood of success is higher now than before.

Forests account for 70 percent of the country's land but play a weak role in the country's poverty reduction, economic and social development and environmental sustainability due to a lack of effective management, the World Bank report was quoted by Reuters as saying.

It said more than $1 billion has been invested in development assistance to the Indonesian forestry sector in the past two decades by more than 40 creditors, including the World Bank, but management continues to be weak and forest continues to be lost.

"Indonesia's forest sector has been in crisis for some time, yet many of us believe that the likelihood of successful outcomes is higher now than any time in the past," said the report.

The World Bank said the optimism was partly due to political reforms in the world's fourth-most-populous country since the fall of autocrat Suharto in 1998, which has led to pressure for officials to improve governance in the forestry sector.

Over 25 million hectares (62 million acres) of forest estate, an area the size of Great Britain, no longer has trees, the report said. The state claims 127 million hectares (314 million acres) of land as forest areas.

Separately, a group of foreign and local non-government organisations (NGOs) said they remained pessimistic on Indonesia's forests and that the Bank itself was lending support to some programmes such as industrial timber plantations that in themselves had been linked to deforestation.

"We do not see substantial positive change in terms of illegal logging, corruption and human rights in Indonesia's forestry sector," Stephanie Fried of U.S.-based Environmental Defense was quoted as saying in the statement issued by NGOs from Indonesia, the United States and the Netherlands.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rice production in January-April period estimated to drop below average

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Domestic rice production in the January-April period this year is estimated to drop to below the average figure, an Agrilculture Ministry official said.

Ning Pribadi, head of the Food Distribution Center of the ministry`s Food Resilience Agency, said here on Tuesday normally rice production in the period would contribute 60 percent of national production in a year but "now it has not reached the level and is even far below average figure for the period."

Speaking at a press conference on national rice policy, Ning said the drop in national rice production in the period was caused by weather conditions which had not been good in the country.

He said the planting season in 2006/2007 was delayed because rain fell late. He said the rain only fell at the end of December or early January, 2007 while it should have happened in September-October, 2006.

Based on the Central Bureau of Statistics`(BPS) prediction harvests in the January-April period would only produce 25.95 million tons of dried unhulled rice while the agriculture ministry predicted it would reach around 23.99 million tons.

The BPS predicts production of dried unhulled rice in the period would drop by 3.45 million tons or 13 percent compared with production in the same period before.

Unhulled rice production in the May-August period is estimated to rise by 0.94 million tons and in the September-December period to rise again by 1.22 million tons.

To compensate for the drop in the January-April period, he said, the government was planning to boost production in the May-August and October-December period.

He said "condition of domestic food supply in 2007 will not be worse than in 2006 if everything goes well and no natural disaster and weather irregularities happen."

The director general of domestic trade, Ardiansyah Parman, meanwhile said the government would stop rice import if domestic supply was sufficient.

"The government now imports rice because the Logistics Agency has difficulties maintaining its stock with domestic rice," he said.

The government is currently importing up to 500,000 tons of rice to increase the national stock to 1.2 million tons.

Mudflow ball plan 'rather funny'

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A plan to plug the Lapindo exploratory gas well at the heart of the East Java mudflow might be ineffective and dangerous, an expert said Tuesday.

The national mudflow response team plans to drop high-density chained balls into the well in an attempt to curb the pressure from below, a move that is also hoped to reduce the volume of the mud coming out of the well by 70 percent.

"Plugging the well with chained balls made of sand and iron pellets might have repercussions from below and create a strong burst of balls (from the well) afterwards," said Dodd Nawangsidi, an engineer from the Bandung Institute of Technology, at a seminar on the mudflow.

Doddy, speaking at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BBPT)'s two-day International Geological Workshop on the Sidoarjo Mud Volcano, said the plan would not last long as a strong burst was likely to occur within a few months.

"The plan actually sounds rather funny as it's generally unfeasible," he said of the project, which could cost up to Rp 4 billion (US$442,000).

Soffian Hadi, a geologist from the national team, said that the project would be completed in several careful stages should it go ahead, with 25 to 100 balls being placed in the well each day.

"However, this resolution still needs to be studied further so as to check its feasibility," he told reporters.

He said the balls, measuring 20 and 40 centimeters in diameter and weighing up to 350 kilograms each would be attached four at a time to chains.

"A solid crane will lower the balls down the well from between two towers," he added.

The team has been dealing with the mud by channeling it to the Porong River, which then carries it out to sea.

Relief walls have also been used to stem the flow, although critics have said that they are not enough.

BBPT said the efforts to try to stop the mud from below ground were unprecedented and that no one had tried to block up a mud volcano before.

"Indonesia is unique because in other countries, what we call a mud volcano occurs far away from the people's residences or infrastructure," said Yusuf Surachman, a BPPT researcher.

Yusuf said people should continue to be concerned about the issue.

"Just because time passes does not mean that we should be aloof to the problem," Yusuf said.

A professor from Kyoto University in Japan, James Mori, who oversees the university's disaster prevention research institute, said that there was no technology available to properly curb a mudflow.

"There's no way to stop it now. However, many people have tried to stop it. If anyone has a new idea then they should go ahead and try it," he said.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Powerful storm damages homes in Yogyakarta

Slamet Susanto and Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta, Magelang

The storm that hit Yogyakarta on Sunday damaged at least 1,173 houses and dozens of public facilities, while forcing more than 1,000 residents out of their homes.

Data from the local Natural Disaster Mitigation task force showed Monday 57 people were wounded in the storm, 44 of whom are still being treated in the city's hospitals.

The Yogyakarta municipality has provided 600 tents as emergency shelters, and erected a public kitchen on Jl. Dr. Sutomo.

Mayor Heri Zudianto said the number of damaged houses would likely rise because the disaster task force had not yet completed reports of material losses.

"We will provide assistance to people whose houses were destroyed in the storm from the emergency fund (which comes from) municipal and provincial budgets," said Herry on Monday.

Gondokusuman district bore the brunt of the storm with 762 houses damaged. Danurejan district had 202 houses damaged, Umbulharjo 165 houses and Pakualaman 44 houses. Dozens of public facilities and offices were also damaged, including the Lempuyangan railway station and several military buildings on Jl. Dr. Sutomo.

The storm also heavily damaged the SMP 15 junior high school. Most of its roof tiles were blown away by the wind and parts of its walls collapsed. Students have not yet returned to school.

"We will erect school tents to immediately restore learning activities," said head of the Education Development Affairs at the local education office, Syamsuri.

Gondokusuman district head Dirzam Wimono said his office would immediately survey the affected areas and mobilize all the resources at his disposal.

"We cannot estimate losses yet. Besides the damaged houses, 15 of our residents were injured after being hit by falling roof tiles and wooden beams. They are still being treated in hospital," said Dirzam.

Around 2,000 security personnel from various military and police units have been helping cleanup debris and uprooted trees along the roads.

"They clean up the mess in the day and secure the neighborhood at night," said Yogyakarta police chief Sr. Comr. Haka Astana.

Meanwhile in Magelang, Central Java, the Sunday landslide in Tanjungsari and Pasangsari villages in Windusari district has claimed 10 victims. Seven of them have been found, while search and rescue workers have not located the other three residents after being hampered by heavy rain.

Tanjungsari village head Jamaluddin said the incident occurred when dozens of residents were repairing an irrigation canal and widening the village road.

"The canal and road are located on top of a cliff which suddenly collapsed and dragged the residents down, burying them," said local resident Widodo.

Residents said they were working on the road and canal after receiving funds from the government. The weather was clear Sunday morning as villagers started work at 7 a.m. The landslide occurred at 10 a.m.

"We quickly tried to save our friends who were dragged and buried, but had to stop due to heavy rain," said Widodo.

Several villagers said that it was raining at the site on Saturday night. The landslide was likely due to unstable soil conditions.

Magelang Regent Singgih Sanyoto and local legislature speaker Ahmad Labib immediately went to the site of the landslide and provided Rp 750,000 in cash assistance victims and their families.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Biofuel to power Indonesia's anti-poverty drive

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is embarking on an ambitious biofuel programme which has already attracted more than 17 billion dollars in foreign and domestic investment and criticism from conservationists worried about the country's forests.

While Indonesia is rich in oil and gas supplies, demand in Southeast Asia's biggest economy is outpacing production and it is seeking alternative energy sources to secure its future.

The government has set a target that 17 percent of the country's energy requirements must be met from renewable sources by 2025 and last year established a National Team for Biofuel Development to develop alternative energy supplies.

For team chief executive Al Hilal Hamdi, crops such as palm oil, cassava, jatropha and sugar cane could hold the answer not only to Indonesia's concerns about energy security, but also unemployment, poverty, the environment and local unrest.

Last month foreign and domestic firms signed agreements totalling 12.4 billion dollars to develop biofuel projects to turn crops such as palm oil and sugar cane into biodiesel and bioethanol.

Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. inked the single biggest deal -- worth 5.5 billion dollars -- with PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group, and Hong Kong Energy (Holdings) Ltd.

The other investors also included Malaysia's Genting Bhd., Japanese firms Mitsubishi and Mitsui, Brazil's Petrobras and companies from South Korea and

Singapore.

"Foreign investment is 12.4 billion US and the domestic investment is about five billion US -- half of that is for the farmers through the Indonesian banks," Hamdi told AFP in an interview.

Over the next eight years, some five million to six million hectares (12.5 million to 15 million acres) will be planted with biofuel crops, he said.

But just where all this land -- an area far larger than Denmark and a bit smaller than Sri Lanka or the US state of West Virginia -- is going to come from is what worries conservation groups concerned about deforestation.

And according to a surprising study by Netherlands-based Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, biofuel is often more polluting than fossil fuels.

Drainage of vast peatland areas for oil palm plantations leads to huge emissions of carbon dioxide as drained peat decomposes very rapidly, the study released in December found.

The decomposing peatland can release 70 to 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year and result in emissions 10 times higher than if coal was used instead of biofuel, the study found.

Often more polluting than fossil fuels

"Production of palm oil in Southeast Asian plantations degrades huge peatland areas. The large amounts of carbon dioxide being emitted due to this degradation makes the use of palm oil many times more polluting than burning oil or coal," Wetlands said.

Hamdi, who attended the UN conference on climate change in November, said:

"We in Indonesia have already taken some action to improve or to recover the

degradation of the peat land."

While energy security and safeguarding the environment are concerns, he said eradicating poverty and tackling massive unemployment were the main focus of the biofuel programme. About 40 million Indonesians live below the national poverty line of 1.55 dollars a day.

"Actually our concern for the biofuel development programme, number one is to reduce poverty, to create more jobs for the people," the former manpower minister said.

"We would like to cut our unemployment rate from 10.2 percent last year to

six percent in 2009-2010. About four million jobs need to be created for the

people," he said, but tens of millions more are underemployed.

While it sounds ambitious, Hamdi says his goal is achievable.

"Four million jobs is equivalent to five to six million hectares of oil palm, jatropa and cassava and the income for the people is above the minimum wage," he said.

At current crude palm oil prices, two hectares of oil palm would give the owner four million rupiah (about 440 dollars) a month while one hectare of sugar cane for bioethanol could yield an annual net income of 12 million to 14 million rupiah.

"It's a good income for the people in the villages where the minimum (monthly) wage is only 75 dollars," he said.

The introduction of new crop varieties and better cultivation methods with

the help of state enterprises would also increase the productivity of small farmers, which was often less than half that of commercial plantations.

"Malaysia has a good experience with that model. They can improve the yield," he said.

And while prices for oil and biofuel fluctuate, Hamdi said Indonesia was studying the flexible approach taken by Brazil, one of the world's leading producers of bioethanol.

"We are learning from Brazil. When the international price of bioethanol is above that of gasoline, they give the commodity for export and import more gasoline. It's an excellent model that we are going to copy in Indonesia," Hamdi said.

While expressing general approval of biofuel, environmental groups fear that Indonesia's massive expansion programme will come at the expense of its forests.

But Hamdi said there was already more than enough land available due to rogue companies that had obtained plantation licences but then just logged the timber.

Abandoned, logged land

Satellite data for Central and Eastern Kalimantan on Borneo island revealed about 4.5 million hectares of unproductive or degraded land which had been logged and abandoned, he said.

Hamdi said this land could be improved by growing biofuel crops and provide people with jobs in an area where there were few employment opportunities.

"To reduce poverty is our concern. Otherwise they participate in illegal logging because there is no alternative for the people there," he said.

"We cannot open industry, electronics or textiles in that area. It's difficult with the lack of skills (and) education, so agriculture is more familiar to them because they've been doing it for more than a century," he said.

Tackling unemployment in poor and sometimes restive areas could also have a peace dividend.

"The social conflict mainly comes from the people who don't have access to (opportunities) to improve their lives and then some provocateurs come," he said.

"If they have a job and they're busy with their plantation, they don't have time to bother or disturb their neighbour. It's more peaceful."

Local biofuel power schemes combined with solar or wind energy could also enable thousands of villages and islands which are inaccessible to power transmission lines to become energy self-sufficient. About a third of Indonesians have no access to electricity.

"They have had good results in the southern Philippines empowering the community, reducing the government subsidies for the electricity and we'd like to have this programme work with us in Indonesia," said Hamdi.

While Indonesia has targets for renewable energy, Hamdi stresses that is

not the main concern, explaining that 10 percent of the country's energy needs

could be met at present just by substituting biodiesel and reducing palm oil

exports.

"It's not just a matter of energy, but also poverty alleviation, creating more jobs, increasing purchasing power, improving the environment by utilising unproductive land, by utilising more green energy and of course to secure renewable energy for our Indonesian future," he said.

Villagers dig for bodies after Indonesian landslides kill at least 12

JAKARTA (AP): Police and villagers dug through mounds of earth Monday searching for survivors or bodies after twin landslides struck Indonesia's Java island, killing at least 12 people, officials said.

The deadliest of the two landslides occurred Sunday close to Magelang in central Java province. Eight people working on an irrigation project were killed and two others were missing, said Rustam Pakaya of the health ministry's disaster crisis center.

In west Java, four people digging for sand on a hillside were killed in a second landslide, a local government official said.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a vast chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Earlier this month, floods in the capital, Jakarta, killed almost 100 people and paralyzed large sections of the city.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Depressing picture of Indonesia's tropical forests

Rita A. Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua

If you wished to better understand the condition of Indonesia's tropical forests, you could imagine them as a person suffering fourth-stage cancer -- very sick and hopeless.

This almost desperate statement was uttered by the nation's No. 1 person in the Forestry Ministry. In reality, it is much worse on the ground.

For more than 40 years Indonesia's forests have been prolific gold mines for a handful of elites in government and the business community.

Their illicit practices, usually immune to existing legal instruments, have caused tremendous destruction to the rich 120 million hectares of natural forests in Indonesia over the last four decades.

Almost 60 million hectares worth of forests in the country have been seriously degraded due to massive logging operations, both legal and illegal. The vast replacement of natural forests with industrial and production areas has also contributed to the large-scale destruction.

Such exploitations of nature damage 2.8 million hectares of forests every year.

Excessive exploitation of Indonesia's forests has resulted in tremendous disasters, including floods, landslides and a choking haze, being inflicted upon the nation's people, in addition to over 70 million people living in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Southern Philippines and Southern Thailand. Such activities have caused irreparable damage to the environment.

"It will take 100 years to fully rehabilitate our degraded forests. The costs will be so huge it will be beyond our technical and financial capability," said Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban, adding that the current rehabilitation of 3 million hectares of forests had already absorbed US$190 million.

Pekka Patosaari, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), told The Jakarta Post during the forum's Country-Led Initiative meeting here in Nusa Dua early this week that Indonesia was both a rich and poor country.

"Indonesia is very rich. The country has abundant natural resources but lacks proper management and controls. The country losses potential revenue that can be used to improve its people's welfare," Patosaari said.

Hans P. Hoogeveen, chairman of the UNFF-7 Bureau, said Indonesia had gained a significant level of international attention. "Indonesia's forests have been the world's most precious lung. International cooperation will be arranged to help this country manage its natural resources wisely and effectively," he said.

Indonesia has the third largest area of tropical forests in the world. The country's forests are home to 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of its mammals and 17 percent of its bird species.

With this in mind, Indonesia's forests become one of the richest and most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.

Unfortunately, few people have benefited from this potential. During the New Order era, beneficiaries of the Indonesian forests were those closest to then-president Soeharto. These included his children, and political and business cronies, as well as timber tycoons who had been granted concessions of more than 60 million hectares of forest land.

After the fall of Soeharto's regime, this list was extended to include new timber tycoons, governors and regents -- especially after regional autonomy was enforced in 2001.

"The government should not close its eyes to the bleak reality that there is a continuous joint effort from policy makers, business people, and military and police officials in exploiting Indonesian forests for their own benefits," the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) stated in a recent report.

The government, the report said, had failed to strictly control forestry and plantations for decades, adding that Indonesia's forestry management had been marred by corruption, incompetence and indifference.

Kaban admitted that despite efforts that have been made, the issue proved to be more complicated than was first thought. "There are many parties involved in the activities and their network has been extensive," he said.

Many "actors," or environmental criminals, continued to safely exist in the government bureaucracy, legislative bodies, the military and business. Drastic and brave action is sorely needed to bring these irresponsible and greedy people to justice in order to save the country's forests from enormous destruction.