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)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

People seek role in dealing with disasters

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

John Lennon would be pleased to lend his tune Power To The People to thousands of demonstrators gathering this weekend as they attempt to engage the public and force the government to empower ordinary Indonesians in disaster prevention.

Over 1,600 activists from various non-governmental organizations from across the country are to convene here from Sunday to Monday to review the role of the public in protecting itself from both natural and man-made disasters. It will also look at ways the government can facilitate the concept.

The 2007 Law on Disaster Mitigation, Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) director Chalid Muhammad said Friday, does not focus on public involvement in anticipating disasters but rather forces their dependence on the government.

"If a disaster hits, it's the people who deal with it first, but their involvement in preventing disasters is little. They must be made able to help themselves before any disaster hits," he said.

Chalid said that 83 percent of Indonesian territory is prone to disasters and over 95 percent of the population is subject to these conditions. The government, he said, should make the most of local methods of mitigating and adapting to disasters.

Indonesia regularly suffers flash flooding, landslides and earthquakes, which experts and green groups attribute to faulty environmental management such as large-scale land conversions, illegal logging and mining in protected forests.

Government action on the matter, he said, is inadequately reactive rather than preventative.

Empowering the people, said Walhi expert Rizal Damanik, would involve allowing locals access to vulnerable areas and encouraging their involvement in building disaster-alert systems within their societies.

The disaster mitigation law mandates the promulgation of a national strategic plan for disaster mitigation, which critics say would rely "on the government giving and the people taking".

But Walhi said each region has its own unique way of dealing with disasters that might not be accommodated by the government plan, and that this weekend's convention would draw a summary of these practices.

Officials to attend the Sunday opening of the three-day event include State Minister of the Environment Rachmat Witoelar, House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Muhaimin Iskandar and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Freddy Numberi.

On the last day, participants will visit the House, the Regional Representatives Council, the National Development Planning Agency and the Finance Ministry to submit the event's results.

Acknowledging that the results may well be shelved by the government, Chalid said the bigger task is to ensure they are applicable locally and to push civil organizations to raise public awareness and involvement.

"The basic idea of this, at the end of the day, is to muster a people-based disaster mitigation system. The results we expect to come up with can hopefully be integrated into ensuing legislation such as ordinances and government regulations," he said.

'There is an answer to the haze'

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru

Timber confiscated via illegal logging activities in Riau should be used by pulp and paper companies and not left in the forest to burn, former environment minister Emil Salim said.

But the current law on confiscated timber prevents illegally derived wood being used legally and paper mills have said there must be proper mechanisms in place to continue to prevent forest fires.

Emil Salim is set to give his proposal to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and said he is sure his idea would help prevent the forest fires and haze that usually occur in August and September in the Riau province.

A member of the Presidential Advisory Council's Economic and Environmental Affairs, Emil wants to recommend to the President timber cleared illegally for palm oil plantations also be given to paper mills.

Emil conducted a two-day aerial observation of forested areas in Riau from June 26 to 27.

And he said his findings showed "the main culprit of the recurring haze in Riau was the method used by irresponsible persons to clear forests by setting them on fire".

The burning of forests to clear land was clearly cheaper and certainly easier than any eco-friendly method, Riau said.

"Timber that is scattered about in forest concession areas should be given away to prevent forest fire," Emil said.

He said using Riau's illegal timber as a raw material for pulp and paper mills would be in the long run cheaper than putting out forest fires every year.

Recurring forest fires in Riau have choked nearby provinces and neighboring countries -- and forest fire haze has contributed significantly to global warming.

Emil's proposal however is against Forestry Ministerial Decree No. 41/1999, which says illegally derived timber cannot be legalized and it cannot be moved from an area because this would raise questions from law enforcers.

Riau Forestry Office head Burhanuddin Husin said Emil's proposal was not a simple one.

"(This proposal) would be illegitimate prior to the government's revision on a number of guidelines pertaining to the matter," Burhanuddin said.

However Emil said his office would submit the proposal to the President and that he would also discuss the matter with Forestry Minister MS Kaban.

"Isn't the law man made? I believe (this issue) is not something that cannot be fixed," Emil said.

"Wouldn't it be better if the timber is given to legal operators rather than wasted."

But Emil said even if his proposal was accepted, Riau administration would need to closely monitor and prevent forest destruction.

"The forest fire brigade must also stay vigilant during the coming dry season," said Emil.

Managing director of Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper Mill Rudi Fajar said he commended Emil's proposal.

"As a pulp and paper company, we are ready to accept the timber," Rudi said.

"But there must be clear mechanisms.

"The illegally logged timber has not much economic value to us -- we are more concerned about the annual forest fires from recurring in Riau," said Rudi.

Organic farm products in demand, but not available

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Demand from overseas for Indonesian organic farm products has increased in the last few years but supplies cannot always meet demand because not enough farmers produce the product.

Caecilia Afra Widyastuti, senior program officer at SwissContact, an organization in the Swiss private sector for development cooperation, said Indonesian farmers were able to provide less than five percent of domestic certified organic products wanted internationally.

She said there was a high demand for Indonesian organic products from Australia, Europe, Japan and the U.S.

Products under demand included organic cacao, vanilla, vegetables and cashew nuts.

"I was recently asked by U.S. business people to send 600 tons of organic cashew nuts -- but we could not meet the demand," Caecilia told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

She said most organic products exported from the country currently came from Sumatra, including Gayo coffee from Aceh.

In North Sumatra, however, organic farm products have yet to gain export licenses as many farmers were still using non-organic fertilizer.

"This is a challenge for North Sumatra farmers," Caecilia said.

"But many farmers in eastern Indonesia have started to switch from non-organic fertilizers to organic ones."

Most farmers were still reluctant to switch to organic plants due several factors, including a longer harvest time and because it was more expensive to invest in organic farming, she said.

Head of North Sumatra Agriculture Office's pesticide lab unit, Nur Halijah, said farmers preferred non-organic farms because they could quickly enjoy the harvest.

Nur said there were also not many domestic consumers interested in buying organic farm products.

Organic water spinach is priced at Rp 1,500 (about 16 US cent) each bundle, while non-organic spinach is sold for Rp 500.

Organic cabbage is sold at Rp 2,500 per ounce, while non-organic cabbage is just Rp 500 an ounce.

Nur said about four percent of farmers in North Sumatra produced organic farm products and not all of their farms were certified -- which was a mandatory requirement for export.

Physician Ramadhani Soeroso from Gleni International Hospital said she encouraged people to consume organic farm products.

She said non-organic farm products were dangerous for people's health because they could increase the risks of cancer, brain damage and miscarriage.

Non-organic products could also affect sperm production and lower a person's immune system.

But Ramadhani said organic products cleansed a person's blood, served as a detoxification and helped the regeneration process for new cells.

"Organic food comes from farms that are chemical free and free from non-organic fertilizer," she said.

Minister gets eyes opened in China

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The agriculture minister has returned from China repeating the old adage: Give a man a bowl of rice and he will eat today, teach him to grow rice properly and he will feed generations.

Minister Anton Apriyantono said Tuesday that China's two-prong technology and policy approach to maintaining domestic rice stocks had inspired him to intensively expand information sharing between researchers, seed producers and farmers in Indonesia, and to introduce new policies to ensure a balance between domestic rice stocks and demand in order to stabilize prices.

"When we asked whether they could help provide us with rice should something happen in Indonesia, they said they could do a little for us. They only produce just the amount of rice they need. And in doing so, they have achieved enough rice stocks of 10 years," said Anton.

Instead of promising rice assistance, Chinese officials accompanied Anton on a tour of rice production centers in various parts of that country between June 6 and 11.

During the trip, Anton observed China's hybrid-seed development program. He said he was really impressed that China could now produce between 12 and 13 tons of rice per hectare.

"The government of China encourages hybrid-seed development with research and financial support. It is interesting to see that a research agency there can disseminate its research findings directly to farmers and world agencies, thus allowing China to respond quickly to ever-changing needs," said Anton.

Anton said that his ministry would enhance domestic research into hybrid seeds. He acknowledged that in Indonesia there were not enough links between researchers and the end-users of their research findings.

"You may be surprised to hear that some domestic seed companies have been exporting seeds to various countries, while our farmers have been importing the same kinds of seeds. We are strangers to each other," said Anton.

Anton said that Prima Tani, an information-sharing program intended to familiarize farmers with the various kinds of seeds produced domestically, would be expanded.

Thus far, the government has introduced the program into 200 rural districts in order to establish better communications and interaction between researchers, seed producers and farmers.

"Next year, we will expand this program to ten thousand rural districts so that technological innovations can reach the farmers through facilitators," he said.

Anton explained that the Agriculture Ministry also planned to encourage the private sector to conduct more research into rice seeds.

He said that the ministry would issue a special permit for the importation of seeds into Indonesia for research purposes. "After the two-year period, they should be able to produce their own seeds -- ones that are suitable for domestic use. This is meant to build up our own resources, so that we are not dependent on imports," he said.

Anton said that he expected this application of a technology-policy approach would enable Indonesia to improve its rice research and production record.

Achmad Suryana, the director of the Agriculture Ministry's Research Agency, said that in the past few decades Indonesia had introduced 31 varieties of hybrid seed, with six of them launched by the Sukamandi research and development agency.

Four of those six varieties had been developed in collaboration with PT Dupont and PT Sumber Alam Sutera, which also works together with the Chinese government, and two other domestic companies. The other two varieties were developed in cooperation with the Central Java administration.

Indonesian Cocoa Council set up

Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) - The setting up of Indonesian Cocoa Council was declared at the closing function of the International Cocoa Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali on Friday evening.

Trade Affairs Minister Mari E Pangestu, when attending the function hoped to increase the quantity and quality of Indonesia`s cocoa in a bid to meet the market demand.

The Indonesia`s cocoa production only reached 590 thousand tons per year, much lower compared with that 1.3 million tons produced by the Ivory Coast and Ghana`s 650 thousand tons

The fact that Indonesia has higher potentials to produce the commodity, especially in terms of land area and number of workers,

Halim Abdul Razak, general chairman of the Indonesian Cocoa Producers Association (Askindo) said.

Germany to write off RI`s debts if nat`l parks in Sumatra are preserved

Kota Agung, Lampung (ANTARA News) - The government of Germany has agreed to write off half of Indonesia`s foreign debts if the country could properly preserve the national parks in Sumatra.

Chief of the South Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS) Task Force Ir Lusman Pasaribu said here on Friday the agreement made in the form of an MoU would be effective 2007 to 2011.

However, the government of Indonesia provided 6.25 million euros for the preservation of the South Bukit Barisan, Mount Leurse and Kerince Slebat national parks.

"If our government is able to implement the agreement, Germany has agreed to write off twice the value of fund allocated to the national parks," Lukman said.

It was reported that some other countries who acted as creditors for Indonesia as well as international non governmental institutions (NGO) had expressed readiness to provide such support under this facility and fund for the preservation of the three national parks in Sumatra.

Therefore, according to Lukman, the government of Indonesia along with the management of the three national parks should work hard to show to the international community that this country is really able to manage and preserve their flora.

"We should show them our ability to implement the agreement and manage the preservation of the South Bukit Barisan national park," he said.

Covering 356,800 hectares of land, the South Bukit Barisan National Park has a number of protected exotic and rare flora and fauna. Together with two other national parks, South Bukit Barisan national park was nominated as a cluster natural world heritage site as the last shield for the conservation of tropical forests in the world.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Weather agency, farmers must be involved in climate change policies: Experts

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Policies involving the national weather forecast agency and farmers must be enacted to enable Indonesia to adapt to the grave effects of global warming and evade disruptions in food provision, a climate change seminar has been told.

Scientists agree climate change has already begun unsettling the arrival of seasons and causing unseasonal fluctuations in temperatures, which are key to rice field cycles, agriculture and biodiversity.

With this in mind, experts agreed at a seminar Thursday that adaptation was as important as mitigation -- seen as more global and political -- in the battle against global warming.

Climate change is causing the arrival of seasons to be more erratic and tends to produce shorter wet seasons with more rainfall and longer dry seasons with prolonged water shortages.

As a result, Indonesia has much to lose given that rice is its staple food and most Indonesians work in the agricultural sector.

Head of the Agricultural and Climate Agency at the Agriculture Ministry, Kasdi Subagyono, said the adaptation measures would include drawing up a dynamic plantation calendar for each plant and natural condition, creating new varieties of plants resilient to barren weather and implementing efficient irrigation methods and water conservation.

"Upgrading the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) so it can come up with more accurate and far-reaching forecasts, say for a year ahead, would help with the drawing up of the calendar. If this can be distributed to the farmers, it would make a big difference," he said at a seminar on biodiversity and global warming hosted by green group Kehati.

"We've completed some calendar drafts for some seasons and weather conditions and we're now trying them out in areas to seek improvement."

Kasdi said new varieties of rice, corn and potato should have shorter harvesting lives to match shorter wet seasons.

"So the farmers must be largely included in these efforts because we're depending on them more than ever," he said.

Indonesia has become an occasional rice importer due to frequent harvesting failures in the country's crops.

Rizaldi Boer from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) said global warming had already damaged Indonesia's rice-harvest cycle, leading to decreased production capabilities.

"In Java, the cycle is 1.6 (harvests) per year compared to 2 some years before, meaning we no longer harvest rice twice a year. Outside Java, the cycle is even lower at 1.1 times," he said.

While most participants focused on the effects global warming would have on agriculture and food production, the seminar also discussed the ability of flora and fauna to adapt to changes. For example, it is expected fish populations in Indonesia will move southward to Australia due to sea current changes.

Global warming has taken the world by storm as one of the most discussed topics over the past two years.

The Kyoto Protocol, under which 38 industrialized Annex I countries excluding the U.S. and Australia vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seems to be moving in an uncertain direction.

Triggered by greenhouse gases, which are predominantly the result of mass energy production and deforestation, trapped in the atmosphere, global warming is destroying biodiversity in the world's seas, killing animals and plants and triggering the outbreak of viruses and bacteria that pose global threats to human health.

Suryo Wiyono and Antonius Suwanto, both IPB lecturers, said at the seminar that current research indicates the escalation of plant pests and cholera outbreaks correlate directly with temperature increases.

Environmental groups have called on the government to actively propose reforestation projects to Annex I nations in the carbon trading scheme and switch to using renewable sources for energy production.

Indonesia is the world's third biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the U.S. and China, the result of forest fires and unbridled deforestation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beyond the dragon: Komodo's natural fascinations

Kanis Dursin, The Jakarta Post, Labuan Bajo

Thousands of flying foxes lingered in the sky; fishes of various colors swam languorously in blue sea water; while small waves rippled through mangrove trees on a tiny island.

In the background, speedboats and motorized boats, mostly ferrying foreign tourists back to their hotels that afternoon, charged through high waves between white-sanded islets dotting the park's marine water.

As the sun sank deeper into the sea, some flying foxes came closer to the passing speedboats.

"Catch me if you can," they seemed to tease.

Welcome to Komodo National Park in West Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara province.

You would be forgiven to think the 1,817 square kilometer park in the heart of Wallacea has nothing more but the Komodo dragon (varanus komodoensis) to offer.

After all, most tourism books and promotional leaflets have focused on the endangered species.

The truth is, while the unique dragon remains its main draw, the national park, established in 1980, is pregnant with fascinating natural attractions -- and watching roaring flying foxes is just one of them.

Next time you come to Komodo National Park make sure you tell your guide to drop by a mangrove islet off Rinca village so you can see thousands of flying foxes migrating in droves.

The birds usually leave their caves on Rinca Island at daybreak for the mangrove island, where they spend the day sleeping. They fly back to their caves at sunset to look for food.

The routine voyage becomes a unique fascination as the birds fly back and fro, up and down, in roaring sound before perching on mangrove trees or heading back to their caves.

If you happen to leave the place just shortly after dusk, some flying foxes would fly next to your speedboat -- traveling with you for half your trip home, as if to see you off.

A similar spectacle is found at a mangrove islet off Komodo village, where you can watch flying foxes dangling on mangrove trees during day time.

If you are an adventurer, negotiating high waves on the way to and from Rinca and Komodo islands, where the endangered Komodo dragons are mostly found, is another thrill in the park, particularly if you hire a speedboat.

Hold tight and be ready to get wet when your speedboat cruises through successive walls of waves.

The waves normally do not exceed one meter in height, but are enough to drive your adrenalin especially if you are running the speedboat at a high speed.

One advice, though, hire an experienced skipper familiar with the routes and the characteristics of the park's sea current to avoid bumping into submerged rock mountains.

During the northwest monsoon season from November to February, for example, the waves in the northern end of the park tend to be larger than in the southern end, while during the southeast monsoon between June and August, waves in the southern end tend to be larger than in the northern end.

Waves tend to be largest in the July, which may be too dangerous for small boats to travel.

On the way to and from Rinca and Komodo, you would pass by small limestone islands -- so many it's tempting to think each visitor to the park could enjoy an island each.

Most of the islands appear like hills rising majestically from the sea, some with long white-sanded beaches.

The islets are generally young, oceanic volcanic islands that are constantly changing by rising, eroding and subsiding into the sea.

Privacy and serenity are guaranteed here -- no people live on those small islands, making them ideal places for your personal retreat.

The deep tranquility is broken only by small ripples of waves smashing into the islands' pristine white beaches.

Go to any point in the park's marine area and chances are you would find yourself challenged to a race by rare or endangered marine animals.

There are around 1,000 species of fish in the park's water, including endangered and rare species such as dugongs, whales, dolphins, turtles and a number of other protected marine animals.

Dolphins and whales make their presence felt by throwing themselves into the air, trailing behind your speedboat or motorized boats or just swimming in front.

An experienced skipper knows exactly where and when whales or dolphins usually appear.
The real treat of your trip to Komodo National Park is perhaps its numerous diving and snorkeling sites scattering all over the park.

Putri Naga Komodo (PNK), a private company in charge of managing the park since 2004, has identified at least 41 diving and snorkeling sites in and around the park.

Each diving and snorkeling site offers unique sightings and a different experience. (See diving and snorkeling sites in Komodo National Park)

One of the frequently visited diving sites in the park is Pantai Merah on Komodo Island.

Diving in Pantai Merah, or Pink Beach, you would find a great variety of fishes and a good selection of curious critters including leave scorpions fish, blue ribbon eels, crocodile fish and many more frolicking around colorful coral reefs.

It is called Pantai Merah because of abundant destroyed red coral reefs washed ashore.
Until recently fishermen would come to fish in the area using destructive methods such as blasting and bombing. These which methods destroyed coral reefs there.

Such practice has ceased thanks to rigorous law enforcement and a growing awareness among local fishermen to preserve the coral reefs.

Pantai Merah is also an excellent snorkeling site. There is a very good dive to be found around a small area of reef and a steep rocky wall, which is visible from the surface at low tide.

It is also a very good night dive site and can offer excellent macro-photography opportunities.

Waters surrounding the islands in the park are also known to have a high diversity of marine life considered to be some of the richest on the planet.

It's not at all surprising the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared the park in 1986 as a World Heritage Site as well as a Man and Biosphere Reserve.

The park is home to at least 253 species of hard, reef-building corals which are scattered over an estimated 17 square kilometers.

According to PNK, there are three different types of reefs in the park with fringing reefs, which grow along the edges of shorelines of land masses and islands, making up the bulk of it.

Most islands in the park are fringed with coral with patch reefs and seamounts also found in the park.

Patch reefs are stand-alone reefs in areas with a shallow bottom -- they do not rise up past the surface of the water.

They are mostly found in north-eastern side of Komodo island.

Seamounts, on the other hand, are submerged pinnacles encrusted with coral reef and there are a number of these types of reef around Komodo. Seamounts are a favored area for pelagic fish to congregate.

If you decide to dive or snorkel in the park's marine area you must be accompanied by a master diver and even your master diver has to be guided by a local master diver who knows the sea's characteristics.

While the waters directly surrounding islands in the park are only between 30 and 100 meters deep, the Komodo National Park has some of the swiftest currents on the planet -- in fact they sometimes resemble a raging river.

The park forms a bottleneck passage between two large deep bodies of water -- the Pacific Ocean to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south.

During the rising tide, a vast amount of water moves south to the north, and during the falling tide, from north to the south.

As the number of north-south water passages is very limited, an enormous volume of water is forced to travel through the park's narrow passages at a rapid rate, creating some of the strongest current in the world.

The good news is the strong currents and up-welling transport nutrient-rich waters throughout the park's marine area and support a wealth of diverse marine life.

So although dangerous for divers, the strong currents ensure the existence of some of the greatest marine biodiversity on earth.

Once of diving and snorkeling, you can drop by either Rinca or Komodo islands, where you are likely to be greeted by Komodo dragons, the park's ultimate attraction.

During a recent visit to Rinca, for example, our entourage was welcomed by a baby dragon hiding in a small cave near the gate leading to the information office. Trained guides are already ready to bring you around.

And finally, the world's heaviest living lizard comes hand in hand with the islands' ideal places for trekking. Along one of the most scenic walks in the world, you're likely to see Timor deer, wild boars, water buffaloes and wild horses. Enjoy.

Mangroves vanishing from Tangerang's coastal areas

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang

Mangrove forests that once protected more than 50 kilometers of coastline in the northern part of Tangerang regency are rapidly disappearing, largely due to the economic activities of local residents.

Along coastal areas in the Mauk, Pakuhaji and Teluk Naga districts, the regency once had 10,000 hectares of mangrove forests according to data from the Tangerang Environmental Management Agency.

"Only 3,000 hectares of mangrove forests remain, and these are on state-owned PT Perhutani land," said Syatiri, the head of forest conservation at the agency.

Syatiri said many local residents do not understand the importance of preserving mangrove forests and convert them for other uses, including as fish and shrimp farms or sand quarries.

"Residents leave mangrove swamps in their converted state when they are no longer of any of use to them," Syatiri said.

"The destruction of mangrove forests is primarily caused by people, but a small percentage of damage is caused by natural factors such as flooding," he said.

He said the deterioration of these forests has resulted in worsening erosion along the coastline, as mangrove trees used to prevent erosion caused by rising tides and large waves.

Syatiri said the administration tried to renew its conservation effort last year by planting 9,000 mangrove trees along coastal areas in Mauk and Teluk Naga, with little success.

"Local residents cut down the trees because they didn't know they were planted to protect the coastline," he said.

The agency's head of land conservation, Ohan Johansyah, said while it is difficult to disseminate information about the importance of mangrove trees, residents need to get involved in conservation efforts for their own sake.

"The waves during seasonal transition periods are quite high. With no mangrove forests to act as buffer zones, up to 500 hectares of farming land may be hit by high tides," Ohan said.

Coastal communities in the northern part of the regency are also at increased risk in the event of a tsunami, he said.

The Tangerang regental administration said at least Rp 110 billion would be required to build water breakers along the most affected areas of coastline, but currently only Rp 6 billion is available for the project.

Environmentalist Sumantri said many mangrove forests in the northern part of the regency started to vanish long ago due to erosion.

"The reforestation drive must be carried out immediately because the regency is facing serious erosion problems. Only reforestation can help minimize the impact of erosion," he said

Rajawali group to invest U$300 M - U$430 M in plantation, mining sector

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Rajawali Corporation Group is to invest US$300 million - US$400 million in the plantation and mining sectors after calling off its bid to become a strategic investor in national flag-carrier PT Garuda Indonesia, a spokesman said.

"We had earmarked the same amount of funds for the Garuda divestment program but since the government decided to postpone the plan to 2009, we will divert them to the expansion of our activities in the plantation and mining sectors," Darjoto Setiawan, Rajawali Group managing director, said here Monday.

The government had previously intended to invite strategic investors to revitalize Garuda which run up debts totaling US$794 million mainly with European countries belonging to the Export Credit Agency (ECA).

Darjoto said Rajawali Group in February 2007 sent a letter to the government to express its interest in investing in Garuda but there was no reply so that it decided to call off its bid last June 14.

The amount of funds the group had set aside to secure a stake in Garuda had been calculated in consideration of Garuda`s present conditions, including the airline company`s need to procure aircraft.

"The amount did not include loans we could provide, if needed," he said.

He said the government`s decision to postpone the involvement of strategic partners in Garuda was not wrong but Rajawali Group was ready to participate any time the government decided to divest the airline.

Now Rajawali Group would use the funds it had originally intended to invest in Garuda to expand its businesses in the plantation and mining sectors.

"In the plantation sector, we already control 100,000 hectares of oil-palm plantations in East and South Kalimantan and are planning to open more plantations as well as acquire existing ones in Papua," he said.

The group - owned by businessman Peter Sondakh -- also had coal mines in East Kalimantan, Darjoto said without disclosing the mines` production capacity.

He only said half of the US$300 million - US$400 million would be allocated for the group`s plantation business and the other half for its mining venture.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Water firms need more raw water

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Water companies have urged the government to help them trap more rainwater to be processed and supplied to the city.

"The availability of raw water has become a big problem for us when it comes to providing clean water for the public," said Marju Kodri, the chairman of Perpamsi, an organization for regional water companies from throughout the country, at a seminar entitled "Where is my clean water?" held here last week.

The water supply in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is 15,500 cubic meters per person per year, much more than the average water supply in other countries of 8,000 cubic meters.

But many in Indonesia, including Jakarta, face water shortages as natural springs shrink and processed clean water becomes more expensive.

"In Jakarta, around 70 percent of potential raw water from rain flows right into the ocean since all the rivers in the city are shallow and can't hold on to it," Marju said.

He said the city administration had to clean and dredge rivers to allow them to hold more rainwater.

Jakarta has 13 rivers flowing through it, including the Ciliwung, the city's biggest and its main source of water. Most city rivers have become heavily polluted and increasingly shallow, in part because of people building houses on riverbanks and throwing rubbish into the rivers.

Marju said it would be difficult for the city water company to provide enough clean water to the public if the city administration did not clean and dredge the rivers.

He said the country's 300 odd water companies could only provide clean water to around 25 percent of the population.

"It means we need to improve our production (capacity) to be able to reach the Millennium Development Goal of providing clean water to 80 percent of the population by 2015," he said.

Reducing the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by half is one of the targets in the Millennium Development Goals signed in September 2000 by 192 member states of the United Nations, including Indonesia.

It was difficult to meet the target, Marju said, since 60 percent of the water companies' revenue had to be transferred to local governments. He said it would cost the companies around Rp 43 trillion (US$4.8 billion) to upgrade their capacity.

"That's why the capacity of these water companies tends to be stagnant," he said.

A member of the Supporting Body for the Development of the Water Supply System at the Public Works Ministry, Amry Dharma, said the central government, the city administration, water supply companies and the public had to cooperate to overcome water supply shortages.

"The body will be a mediator for them to achieve their goal," he said, adding that the body would also try to encourage private companies to invest in the water supply business.

Jakarta drinking water still poisonous

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Studies have shown most of Jakarta's ground water is polluted with E. Coli and Coliform which can cause diarrhea and life-threatening cholera.

Jakarta's water operators still do not have connections to a lot of the city so many residents use wells and have no access to clean water.

The 2006 Human Development Report said the urban poor spend more than others on water by either buying bottled water or raw water in jerricans.

The report said this socioeconomic group needed then to spend more of their budget on kerosene to boil jerrican water to ensure it was safe for consumption.

"This is the dilemma ... the government should invest more on clean water access for the people, but due to budget constraints ... (from the) bureaucracy, people should take the initiative to provide themselves with clean water," Rieneke Rolos, deputy project director for the Aman Tirta (Safe Water System) program said.

Rieneke spoke at a seminar which was part of a one-day conference on Indonesia's water problems held by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The USAID seminar was held in conjunction with the Indo Water 2007 conference and exhibition at the Jakarta Convention Center.

Aman Tirta is a partnership between Johns Hopkins University, CARE and PT Tanshia Consumer Products and is coordinated by USAID.

Aman Tirta produces Air RahMat, a concentrate of sodium hypochlorite that allows households to clean their water without first boiling it.

Rieneke said water in West Timor refugee camps and tsunami-hit Aceh that had been treated with Air RahMat was 47 percent less likely to be polluted and 85 percent less likely to cause diarrhea.

"A household spends approximately Rp 60,000 (US$6.4) a month to boil water, but a bottle of Air Rahmat worth Rp 5,000 is enough for to create one month's worth of clean water for consumption," Rieneke said.

Arum Wulandari from the Emmanuel Foundation introduced through the water seminar a system called Sodis -- or solar disinfection -- which she said was an alternative to household water management.

"It's basically using abundant ultra violet rays to kill micro-organisms polluting the water," she said.

It was already being used in six locations in Jakarta and earthquake-stricken Yogyakarta and the new system had proven itself effective in efforts to clean the water, she said.

"In our research in Jakarta last year, no E. Coli was detected in water treated with Sodis," Arum said.

Zainal Nampira from the water treatment and sanitation department at the Health Ministry said it was time for households to be aware of all the options available.

"We need to work together to broaden public knowledge on hygienic, easy and less-expensive ways to treat water for consumption," he said.

"This will also ease the effort to achieve our Millennium Development Goal (MDG)."

In 1990 just 45 percent of Indonesia had access to clean water for consumption and access to sanitation facilities. MDG requires Indonesia to increase this to 72.5 percent before 2015.

Facts on water and sanitation

-- A 2004 study of 48 wells in Jakarta found most of the wells contained coliform and fecal coli bacteria. By June, some 63 percent of the wells exceeded safe coliform levels. That figure rose to 67 percent by October. (Friends of the Earth Indonesia, www.walhi.or.id)

-- Almost 80 percent of Indonesians use water sources that are likely to be contaminated with bacteria. Most water sources in Indonesia are constructed without considering the minimum distance to septic tanks. (February 2004, Indonesia Development Report for the Millennium Development Goals)

-- Due to bad sanitation, some 100,000 toddlers in Indonesia die every year. (World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope and Opportunities)

-- In Indonesia, only 64 percent of people have access to basic sanitation. Seventy-eight percent of these people live in large cities, while 22 percent are in rural areas. This figure does not indicate ownership of sanitation means. It only shows the percentage of people with access to basic sanitation, whether public or privately owned. It also does not show the condition of the sanitation facilities. (February 2004, Indonesia Development Report for the Millennium Development Goals)

-- As of 2006, the government's investment in sanitation was a mere Rp 200 per person per year. An investment increase in sanitation infrastructure to Rp 51,254 per person per year would boost people's production 34 to 79 percent, reduce health costs by 6 to 19 percent, and cut medicine costs 2 to 5 percent (World Bank, Sanitation: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope and Opportunities)

-- Indonesia only has 11 cities that have centralized sanitation systems. These are Balikpapan, Banjarmasin, Cirebon, Denpasar, Jakarta, Medan, Surakarta, Tangerang and Yogyakarta. (Bappenas and Water and Sanitation Program, the World Bank: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope, and Opportunities)

-- Water companies only serve around 40 percent of urban households. The rest use other sources such as wells or water vendors. In rural areas, water companies only serve 10 percent of households. (Indonesia, Averting an Infrastructure Crisis: A Framework for Policy and Action; 2004)

-- Per year, economic losses related to poor sanitation reach Rp 4.23 trillion, or equal to 2 percent of total GDP. This figure also equals Rp 100,000 per household per year

-- Of 50 million urban poor who do not have clean water connections, six million pay very high rates to water vendors outside water companies. They can pay up to Rp 25,000 per cubic meter of water, Rp 23,000 more expensive than the water company's rate of Rp 2,000

Jakarta Bay end destination for much of city's trash

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Thirteen rivers flowing north to Jakarta Bay bring at least 14,000 cubic meters of mostly household garbage each day, or about half of the total of 28,435 cu m of garbage that pollutes the sea.

Head of the pollution control unit at the City Environment Management Board (BPLHD) Ridwan Panjaitan said based on a recent study most of the floating garbage in Jakarta Bay was made up of plastic products.

"Fifty four percent of the floating garbage in Jakarta Bay is made up of plastics and the 13 rivers continue to transport a huge amount of trash," he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The study said 24 percent of waste was from wood-related products but the remainder was made up of rubber and garment material.

The Kepulauan Seribu regency regularly deployed four boats and a barge with the capacity to hold 40 tons to clean up the sea before disposing of garbage at Bantar Gebang dump in Bekasi, Ridwan said.

"It is a boring job for the administration but few households care about treating their domestic trash and many simply throw it in the rivers."

The correct treatment of waste at the household level would be key to improving waste management in the capital, he said.

The administration last year allocated Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million) to research the chronic problem of waste in Jakarta Bay.

"We are still formulating a plan of action to settle Jakarta Bay's problems," Ridwan said.

He said his office would try to clean Pantai Indah Kapuk in North Jakarta as a pilot project.

"Through this project we will determine who should filter the garbage in the river and who should be responsible for its transportation to the dump," he said.

The administration has long been under pressure to treat its growing waste, which is mostly domestic garbage.

The capital currently produces more than 6,000 tons of garbage per day and dumps it to Bantar Gebang sanitary landfill.

The increase of garbage in Jakarta Bay came after the administrations of Jakarta, Banten and Bogor agreed to rehabilitate the rivers.

Under the 2006 agreement, it is Jakarta's responsibility to increase the quality of Ciliwung River, Banten's responsibility to fix Cisadane River and West Java province's to clean the Citarum River.

Environmentalist said the garbage pollution in Jakarta Bay would further damage coral reefs and endanger turtles.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said the poor coordination of authorities was the main reason the waste problem remained unresolved in Jakarta Bay.

"Maintenance of the river is under the Public Works Ministry while the quality of the water in the river is handled by the State Ministry for the Environment," Walhi executive director for Jakarta Slamet Daroyni said.

"But it is not clear who is responsible for the waste in the rivers."

There are 13 rivers that pass through Jakarta and West Java provinces, which means the main responsibility should be in the hands of the central government, he said.

Slamet said he was worried the city sanitation agency could not treat the waste in the sea because it could not solve dry land waste problems.

He also asked the administration to tightly monitor companies operating near the rivers.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Jakarta kampong goes green

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Plants and gardening were not Ida's cup of tea, especially because she doesn't have enough space around her small house in Bonang kampong, Pegangsaan, Central Jakarta, to build a garden.

But after a visit to the green Banjarsari kampong in South Jakarta, the housewife changed her mind.

"I was so impressed with the virtually green kampong. Besides, gardening is not as hard as I thought before and it doesn't have to take too much space," she said Saturday.

Since last year, Ida and 20 others in the neighborhood had started to plant vegetables and plants often used as traditional herbal medicines.

On Saturday they were attending a course about gardening and "green pharmacy" from Ibu Bambang, a leader of greening program in Banjarsari, who was invited to share her experiences.

The session was one of the many activities that was organized by GE Money during its Global Community Days, an annual program as part of their integrated corporate social responsibility worldwide.

Also in conjunction with the 480th Jakarta anniversary, that fell on June 22, GE Money's engagement and corporate citizenship manager Ani T. Rahardjo said that the program could help communities, especially slum residents, to empower themselves.

"We focus our activities in this kampong, and today we have this training and briefing session for women about gardening. We will also have a competition for their gardens, and a drawing competition for elementary schools-aged children," she said.

GE and non-profit organization Nurani Dunia Foundation had worked together for six years in Bonang, educating the residents about environment and health-related issues.

They built learning center Rumah Belajar Proklamasi in 2004, a place more than a library or a stop house for children after school time.

"It is also the center for our activities, from religious gathering, meetings for planning upcoming events and regular sports activities, and many more," said Megi Budi Sumarno, a resident of 10 years and now entrusted to manage the center.

In short, according to Megi, the learning center has helped residents to focus on many positives activities, such as sports -- the company and foundation have built badminton court and provide table tennis equipment -- and gardening.

"In the old days, this kampong was a drugs center. Many residents involved with drugs, both as users or dealers. But now, the number is decreasing. Ibu-ibu, who used to sell drugs, have also stopped their business as they have more interesting activities, such as gardening," said Megi.

Imam Prasodjo of the Nurani Dunia Foundation said that the success of Bonang residents to improve the condition of their kampong could be an example for other slums in fight against its various social and economic problems.

"Participation is the key in any empowerment programs in slum areas. The program will succeed and sustain as long as residents take active participation," he said.

Earthquakes hit sea off Java

INDONESIA (The Jakarta Post) : Two strong earthquakes hit Java's southern coast Saturday but left no one dead or injured.

The head of the data and information division at the Yogyakarta Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, Tiar Prasetya, said the quakes measured 5.3 and 6.0 on the Richter scale.

He said the first quake took place at 2:47 p.m., with its epicenter located 194 kilometers southeast of Wonosari city in Yogyakarta.

"Since the epicenter was far away and out at sea at a depth of 42 km, the impact was hardly felt by people and there was no threat of a tsunami," Tiar said.

The second quake hit at 5:10 p.m. and was also unlikely to have caused a tsunami, with its epicenter 739 km from Ujung Kulon in West Java at a depth of 295 km.

He said the quakes were caused by shifting of the Indo-Pacific and Australian plates.

"Every year, there is a 7 centimeter shift and each movement causes energy accumulation and earthquakes can happen anytime," he said. "But when a quake will take place again, no one knows."

Clinton, mining industry launch anti-poverty effort

By Claudia Parsons,

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a plan on Thursday to fight poverty in the developing world in partnership with the mining industry, which often is accused of exploiting the poor and the environment.

The Clinton-Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative has initial commitments of $100 million each from two philanthropists -- Canadian financier Frank Giustra and Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire listed by Forbes as the world's third richest man.

The initiative will start in Colombia and hopes to expand to Peru, Mexico and other Latin American countries soon. It would then move on to other continents.

Giustra, a major figure in the Canadian mining industry who so far has enlisted 20 mining companies and organizations in the coalition, said he would also donate half of all his future income from the natural resources business.

Read More ....

International Cocoa conference to be held in Bali

ANTARA / Asia Pulse / Yahoo Finance - 2007-06-21 12:42:09

JAKARTA, June 21, 2007 Asia Pulse - An International Cocoa Conference will be held in Nusa Dua, Bali in June 28-29, with 420 delegates from 18 countries.

Conference Organizing Committee Chairman Antonius Pasaribu said that participants in the conference with the theme of World Cocoa Sustainability Partnership would include traders, cacao product industrialists, government officials and association leaders and observers.

Chairman of the Indonesian Cacao Association, Halim Razak, said that delegates were expected to discuss problems faced by producing countries in improving the productivity of their cacao plantations.

Halim said that Indonesia would use the opportunity to attract investors to do business in cacao processing industry.

Govt continues drive to revive forests

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government plans to rehabilitate 900,000 hectares of forestland this year in its effort to meet an overall target of restoring 5 million ha by 2009.

Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said Friday that since the inception of the National Rehabilitation Movement (Gerhan) project in 2003, some 2.3 million ha of forestland has been rehabilitated.

"We're focusing on recovering forests on Java first because there is not yet a tree planting culture there," Kaban told The Jakarta Post after opening a Gerhan meeting.

Kaban said Indonesia still faces a number of serious forestry predicaments, such as illegal logging, forest fires and increasing rates of deforestation.

"Deforestation (in Indonesia) has become the center of attention for the international world.

"This has become a global issue because it is considered to have a strong correlation to global warming, which the world is worried about," Kaban said.

Greenpeace applied to the Guinness Book of World Records last month to have Indonesia included in its 2008 edition for having had the fastest rate of deforestation in the world between 2000 and 2005.

Kaban highlighted the importance of reforestation, saying it correlates to three of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to ensure environmental sustainability and to develop a global partnership for development.

This year, the government has earmarked Rp 4.1 trillion (US$454 million) from the ministry's rehabilitation fund and the state budget to rehabilitate damaged forestlands throughout Indonesia.

At the Gerhan meeting, the director general for social forestry and land rehabilitation, Darori, said Rp 3.38 trillion will be allocated over two phases for rehabilitation works this year.

"In the first phase, there is a proposed fund of Rp 2.17 trillion to be used by 539 working units at various levels," he said.

"Meanwhile, we are still discussing budgets for the second phase of Rp 1.21 trillion with the Finance Ministry."

Kaban has requested that regents come up with at least 10 percent of the rehabilitation fund needed for regencies.

"We need revitalization, capital injection and new technologies," the minister said.

"I have instructed the regents to channel the funds in a way that will cultivate the land more productively."

He said regents could use the fund in a variety of ways permitted by forestry laws and the rehabilitation blueprint.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Govt threatens to revoke license of Long Ping hybrid paddy seeds importer

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Agriculture Ministry has threatened to revoke PT Bangun Pusaka`s license to import hybrid paddy seeds of the Chinese Long Ping variety because the company had failed to develop the variety at home after importing the seeds for two years.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said here on Friday that based on regulations, the paddy seeds importer was allowed to import the agricultural commododity only for two years after which it had to develop the variety in the country.

"But there has been no indication that the Long Ping hybrid paddy seeds importer is developing the variety. Therefore, we will revoke its license," the minister said.

He said the government granted PT Bangun Pusaka a license to import Long Ping hybrid paddy seeds from China in 2004 and the license should have expired in 2006.

However, the minister said, the government would still give a chance to the company to import the seeds this year because the government hoped the import would help its program of increasing the country`s rice production by two million tons in 2007.

"Next year, the company should start to cultivate and develop the seeds at home, or otherwise it will have its license revoked," the minister added.

The minister said on Thursday the government was not restricting the import of hybrid paddy seeds but expected that it would not exceed 50 percent of national need.

He made the statement on the sidelines of the 35th anniversary of Agriculture Day here on Thursday.

He said the national need for hybrid paddy seeds reached 5,000 tons so it was expected the import of paddy seeds would not exceed 2,500 tons.

The minister said the government had not imposed any official restriction on the import of hybrid paddy seeds by the private sector because the market absorption at home was still small.