More destruction of Balikpapan Bay

1. Forest clearing in a protected coastal areas, ie. less than 200 metres from the sea.

The status of the area is High Conservation Value Forest. Its location is at the mouth of the River Berenga in the Tempadung estuary. The area being cleared with heavy machinery is broader than the former pond and a building has been erected.

The stones on the shores are an indication that there is the intention to build a pier. This area is very close to seagrass beds and coral reefs, the food sources for dugongs and dolphins. We are confident that confident that there is no licence for the work, or environmental analysis submitted given the high conservation value of the area.

2. Damage to the second mangrove estuary is happening in Puda where a company (yet to be confirmed PT Semen Gresik) has begun to build a wharf outside the Kariangau Industrial Area designated in the 2013-2032 Spatial Plan. This is an area of mangroves and construction is not in accordance with the Spatial Plan.

Map of the two locations

Much more info about the ongoing destruction of this environmentally important site can be found here

Press Release re Wilmar

Biodiversity hotspot in East Kalimantan threatened by Wilmar

BALIKPAPAN, 27 February 2014.

Public meeting, held by Wilmar in Hotel Tiga Mustika in Balikpapan, incidentally drew attention to inconsistencies in Wilmar’s commitment to zero-deforestation, which has been agreed on 5th December 2013. A proposal to destroy one of the last remaining biodiversity hotspots along the East Kalimantan coast has been revealed on the meeting, as Wilmar advocated for their proposal to locate a crude palm oil refinery by PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia (WINA) in Balikpapan Bay. Wilmar is trying to deny the high conservation value of the land under their concession.

The concession of PT WINA in Balikpapan Bay covers 149.8 ha of forest. Since 2008, numerous NGOs, researchers and environmental activists have opposed Wilmar’s project to locate a palm oil refinery in this area. The HCV Forest assessment, conducted recently by Wilmar’s contractor, PT Re.Mark Asia, was reaction to these protests. It however proves to be only an awkward attempt by Wilmar to conduct deforestation without formally breaking the zero-deforestation policy.

The report is based more on paperwork rather than field data and makes provision for Wilmar’s needs rather than for objective criteria of HCV Forest assessment. In result, the report denies the high conservation value for most of the concession. Only 22.73 ha are considered to be a HCV Forest, which is a significant underestimate. The real extent of the HCV Forest is in fact close to the total area of the concession (149.8 ha). This represents almost 87% underestimate of the total extent of the HCV area.

One of the apparent limitations of the HCV Forest Assessment by PT Re.Mark Asia is the lack of field data (only 4-5 days of field work) and the extensive use of unreliable and highly questionable secondary resources. For example, data from previous Environmental Impact Assessments (AMDAL, UKL/UPL) have been used, regardless of the fact that these data are well known to be highly inaccurate and often purposely manipulated.

The report significantly underestimates the total extent of forest with high concentration of biodiversity values, and fails altogether to give the appropriate status to the area that represents extensive natural environments, endangered and interconnected ecosystems, forests critical to erosion and sedimentation control and forests fundamental to meeting basic needs of local communities.

The report diametrically misinterprets the status of the mangrove forest within the PT WINA concession.  It considers 86% of the mangrove forest to having been changed into scrubland and shrimp farms, while in fact, 100% of the mangroves were in reasonably good condition before Wilmar took over the concession. It also entirely denies the existence and high conservation value of extensive secondary forest, by classifying it a scrubland as well.  In fact however, these forests are home to numerous endangered species, including one of the world’s biggest populations of proboscis monkeys. It is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots that still remain along the coast of East Kalimantan.

Furthermore, the HCV Forest assessment denies the crucial environmental services of the forest within Wilmar’s concession, such as preventing erosion and sedimentation in Balikpapan Bay. The report fails to acknowledge that Balikpapan Bay represents a relatively closed water system, with limited and slow water exchange with open sea of the Makassar Strait. This means that the sediment and industrial waste is not washed into open sea and instead accumulates in Balikpapan Bay. This may result in extremely heavy sedimentation, which is causing death of ecosystems such as coral reefs and sea grass beds (the key feeding areas for dugongs).

Furthermore, decreased light penetration due to heavy sediment load restrains overall productivity of the ecosystem. This in turns leads to serious threats to the population of marine mammals, the collapse of local fishery and increased poverty in coastal villages, where 80 % of the inhabitants are fishermen. Traditional fishery is the major and most vital economic activity within this ecosystem. Together with ecotourism (and possibly carbon trading), it represents truly sustainable economic activity in Balikpapan Bay. Ecosystem destruction due to land clearing, deforestation and coastal reclamation, increasing underwater noise and industrial pollution, is causing serious damage to the local fishery.

Exposing this environmental case highlights a serious loophole in Wilmar’s new zero-deforestation policy. The policy, in theory, does not allow any further conversion of the High Conservation Forest, either by Wilmar or by its subsidiaries, either for palm oil plantations, palm oil mills or crude palm oil refineries. This commendable decision raised a lot of positive response from environmental NGOs and helps Wilmar to develop good image and to secure valuable business contracts.

However, the case of Balikpapan Bay shows that simply by assessing an area as not-having high conservation value, Wilmar can still continue in deforestation without formally breaking the zero-deforestation policy. Such loophole would enable Wilmar to proceed in conversion of any forest by claiming that it is not a HCV area. Such zero-deforestation policy would be meaningless. 

However, we believe that if Wilmar is serious with their zero-deforestation policy, this can only be proved by the unconditional halting of any further development in Balikpapan Bay.

Balikpapan Bay represents an important test, which will show to the international community how serious Wilmar is with the new zero-deforestation policy.

Stan Lhota, M.Sc., Ph.D
(Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague)

Wilmar Violates the Zero-Deforestation Policy

Public Consultation without the Public: How Wilmar Violates the Zero-Deforestation Policy
BALIKPAPAN, 11. 2. 2014.

A total of 18 NGOs and researchers sent an official letter to Wilmar, in which they complain that a public meeting, which discussed the proposed conversion of a High Conservation Value Forest in Balikpapan Bay, was held in absence of any conservation NGOs.

Mangrove conversion into palm oil processing plant station by Wilmar - Balikpapan Bay 2013

Several large corporations, responsible for large-scale destruction of the rainforest in recent past, are beginning to commit to a new zero-deforestation policy. One of them is Wilmar, the biggest producer of palm oil, headquartered in Singapore, who signed the commitment to zero-deforestation on 5th December 2013 - a decision which earned them huge popularity.

However the recent case of Wilmar’s subsidiary, PT. Wilmar Nabati Indonesia (PT WINA), shows that the situation may not be as good as it appears. PT WINA, formerly PT Mekar Bumi Andalas (PT MBA), is already known for the destruction of the protected riverside and coastal mangrove forest in Berenga River (Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, Indonesia) in 2007-2008.  This case of mangrove swamp conversion is under investigation by RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and the case remains unresolved, thus preventing Wilmar from achieving certification of their products.

Now however, Wilmar proposes additional forest clearance within its 150 ha concession in Balikpapan Bay, which is located in a coastal forest of exceptionally high biodiversity and ecological values; the area represents an important habitat for proboscis monkeys and other endangered species. The plan to convert this ecosystem into a giant palm oil bulking and processing industrial complex is in a sharp contrast with Wilmar’s recently announced zero-deforestation policy. In this policy, Wilmar commits to immediately stop deforestation of any forests of High Conservation Value (HCV).

There is however indication that Wilmar may try to avoid the limitations imposed by their new policy by proposing that the forest to be converted is not one of High Conservation Value. A recent incident in Balikpapan supports this suspicion. On 28th January 2014, Wilmar organized a public consultation on the Environmental Impact Assessment and High Conservation Value Forest Assessment of the highly controversial project of palm oil bulking station and refinery, which is to be built in Balikpapan Bay.

The invitation letter was dated 24 January 2014 and it included a long list of conservation NGOs, such as WWF, TNC, BOS-F, WALHI/FoE, amongst other, as well as the University of Mulawarman and two foreign researchers.

However, the invitation to attend the meeting was not sent by Wilmar to most of the organizations, and only one of those listed received an official written invitation. A few more received a phone call but it was just one day before the meeting so too late for everybody to attend. This was even worsened by the fact that the venue (a school in a village Teluk Waru) was too difficult to access for most participants, therefore none of the conservationists were able to attend the public consultation.

On Tuesday, 11th January 2014, a total of 18 conservation NGOs and researchers responded to Wilmar with an official letter, in which they complain that a public meeting, which concerns such important environmental issues, must include the conservation NGOs. The organizations consider the public consultation held in 28th January to be invalid due to their absence, and require that Wilmar organizes the meeting once again and properly.

They require that the invitations must be sent in e-mail at least one week in advance, the venue needs to be better accessible and the participants need to receive written supporting materials together with the invitation.

The case of Balikpapan Bay became the first important test to Wilmar’s commitment to their new zero-deforestation policy, and will certainly not be the last. 

Therefore, organizations such as Greenpeace and The Forest Trust (TFT), which have been involved in signing Wilmar’s zero-deforestation policy, will be regularly updated about the ongoing development in Balikpapan Bay.

Stanislav Lhota, M.Sc., Ph.D.
Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague
Usti nad Labem Zoo
IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group

Weekly Gleanings ....

... are now posted on the Green Indonesia Facebook Page.

A slow loris is NOT cute!

I finally got to see Jungle Gremlins of Java on BBC Knowledge last night. The BBC's blurb is bland: The slow loris [kukang] is the real-life gremlin, extremely cute but with a venom that can kill. Now it's also a YouTube superstar with millions of hits. Dr Anna Nekaris, a primatologist, travels to the jungles of Java to solve the riddle of its toxic bite, but a shocking discovery awaits. I thought it was a fascinating insight into a unique nocturnal mammal which isn't "cute" as thought by anthropomorphic idiots and a powerful condemnation of the lack of care shown by Indonesian authorities towards the trade in protected species.

Anna Nekaris may be an Oxford professor, but her research is expressed in plain language and she proves to be an engaging television presence. I hoped to be able to download the programme because, as the scene in the ‘pet’ market demonstrated, it’s the local population which is need of educating about the importance of protecting species, and this would be an excellent programme for schools. However, all I could find is a stream on Delete City.

Anna Nekaris has established the Little Fireface Project which aims to save the slow loris via ecology, education, empowerment. This is a video they've produced, for Indonesian audiences.

I suggest that Jakarta Governor Jokowi and his deputy ‘Ahok’ be approached to watch this and now they've cleared the Tanah Abang streets of street vendors and the thugs who preyed on them that be urged to deal with the markets dealing with the horrific trade in protected species.

Green Gleanings 1.8.13

1. Palm oil company guards injure four villagers in Kalimantan clash
Four villagers were injured and several vehicles destroyed in a clash between local residents and palm oil company guards in Indonesian Borneo last week. The clash is the latest incident in a long-running conflict between Wilmar subsidiary PT Bumi Sawit Kencana and villagers in Kotawaringin Timur district, Central Kalimantan.

2. The Javan Rhino’s final stronghold
An article on the current state of a native Indonesia mammal in danger of extinction.

3. Through a new online fund-raising campaign on behalf of the Sumatran Orangutan Society featuring an animated orangutan called Armstrong, comedian Bill Bailey is asking animal lovers to help create new homes for the Sumatran orangutan by backing a rainforest restoration project that has just planted its 1,000,000th tree. 

4. Cute pictures of orphaned orangutans.
330 orphaned apes are cared for at the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine in Borneo, Indonesia. Human surrogate mothers look after the orphaned and rescued orangutans