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August 2016

This is a warning for companies. It is a lot cheaper to prevent forest fires every year than have to pay lawyers or Rp 1.07 trillion of fine.


Indonesia’s Court Fined Company with 80 Million Dollars on Forest Fires Case

Fidelis E. Satriastanti

South Jakarta District Court granted Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s lawsuit against PT National Sago Prima (PT NSP) for a total of Rp 1.07 trillion (US$ 81 million) making it the largest winning in a forest fire case, said a senior official, in Jakarta, on Friday (12/8).

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, under Directorate General of Law Enforcement, filed a civil lawsuit against the company in October 2015 for land clearing with burning on 3,000 hectares in Kepulauan Meranti district of Riau.

Rasio Ridho Sani, director general of law enforcement, said that the winning was the first largest compensation in a forest fire case.

DirGen of Law Enforcement, Rasio Ridho Sani, gave a presser on the winning. (Photo by Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Aug 2016). 

“We appreciate the judges’ decision which brings justice to those people who have suffered the impacts of forest fires,” said Sani adding that the ministry was ready to answer the appeal of the company on the decision.

The judges have granted nearly all charges made by the ministry such as the company had to pay Rp 319,168,422,500 (US$24 million) for compensation and Rp 735 billion (US$ 56 million) for restoration.

In addition, if the verdict is final and legally binding (in kracht) but the company had failed to pay the fine there will be Rp 50 million (US$ 3816) per day.

“The judges did not granted only one demand from us which is the company should have paid the money for restoration without waiting further legal process. The court rejected the petition on the basis that the legal process is still going on,” said Patra M. Zen, lawyer of the ministry.

Nevertheless, Zen said that the victory was legal assurance that the justice system in Indonesia had used strict liability to deal with forest fires cases.

“It means that judges agreed that companies which obtained permits in forestry sector are responsible to tackle forest fires in their concession areas,” he said. “It sends strong message that companies better handling fires in their areas or ended up paying Rp 1.07 trillion.”

The court found that PT NSP had failed to tackle forest fires in concession areas which have become embedded responsibilities, such as lack of fire monitoring towers, proper fire extinguishers, and no warning boards.

The company also failed compliance assessment conducted by Presidential Unit of Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4), under President SBY’s administration, and had ordered to improve its performance.

Bambang Hero Saharjo, one of the expert, said that they had counted the cost under the 2014 Environment Ministerial Regulation.

“The loss is counted from several aspects, such as ecological losses of peatlands, erosion, biodiversity loss, and carbon released,” said the professor of forestry of Bogor Agricultural Institute.

Furthermore, he said that scientific based was not being more appreciated in dealing with forest fires cases compare in the past where companies rarely got fine in trillions of rupiah.

“We were laughed at when we came up with the number. But, that’s the fact and it’s based on the regulation,” he said hoping that other cases would follow suit.  END.

Indonesia mulls revision of orangutan conservation plan

11 August 2016 / Fidelis E. Satriastanti

The archipelago tries to hone its strategy for saving an iconic primate.


  • Indonesia’s 2007 strategy for saving the endangered Sumatran and Bornean orangutans has not gone according to plan, with both species continuing their decline.
  • The authors of the 2007 action plan thought Indonesia’s worst environmental problems, such as the rapid loss of forest where orangutans live, would be solved by now, according to a government official who helped to write the plan.
  • Last year, the government set a new target to increase the population of 25 “priority species,” including the Bornean orangutan, by 10% over 2013 levels by 2019.
In 2007, Indonesia launched its Strategy and Action Plan for National Conservation of Orangutans, with the goal of stabilizing all wild populations — and their dwindling rainforest habitats — by 2017.


Things do not always go according to plan.

In July, the IUCN declared the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) as “critically endangered,” the highest risk category. That put it on par with its cousin, the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), which has been listed as critically endangered — one step away from extinction — since 2008.

Now, the government intends to revise the action plan, whose ambitious targets were either missed or vague to begin with. Both species’ numbers have continued to decline, with only 54,000 Bornean orangutans and 14,600 Sumatran orangutans thought to remain.

An estimated 1,500 still live in rescue centers located across Sumatra and Borneo, even though the 2007 plan called for the rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild of all captive orangutans by 2015.

Other goals included enhancing public support for orangutan conservation and implementing a management system to ensure their survival — too imprecise, according to Erik Meijaard, a Jakarta-based conservation scientist who coordinates the Borneo Futures Initiative.

“It is simply a list of things to do, but it doesn’t say who will do these things, by when, with what outcomes, and importantly, who is paying,” Meijaard told Mongabay. “This needs to be made much clearer by the government.”

A pair of orphaned orangutans in Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
A pair of orphaned orangutans in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Although the government has declared saving orangutans a priority, it has also set ambitious targets for increasing the production of palm oil, one of Indonesia’s biggest exports. The breakneck expansion of oil palm plantations is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in a country that lost 6 million hectares of primary forest — an area larger than Croatia — from 2000 to 2012.

A photo uploaded to DiCaprio's Instagram account on Thursday. The caption read, "As the forest of the #Indonesian #LeuserEcosystem continues to be cleared to meet demand for Palm Oil, the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan is being pushed to the brink of extinction...If we don't stop this rampant destruction, the Leuser Ecosystem and the Sumatran orangutans that call it home could be lost forever. Click the link in the bio to support this important work. #Indonesia"
Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio posted this photo to Instagram this year after a visit to Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, the only place where orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild.

“The government should not say in one plan that they will stabilize all wild orangutan populations by 2017, while in other plans to call for expansion of agriculture in those same areas with orangutans,” Meijaard asserted. “That is not going to work, so the government needs to choose and be clear in their choices.”

Tachrir Fathoni, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s director of ecosystem conservation, agreed that the government “must work harder” in order to save the orangutan.

The 2007 plan listed land-use change, wildfires, deforestation, poaching and trafficking as threats to be addressed, but the problems have generally intensified.

“The key is we need to preserve its habitat. If the habitat is good, and there’s enough food, and there’s no more hunting and enough protection, they can grow on their own,” Fathoni told Mongabay.

“In addition, we need to tackle illegal trafficking or trading as there are cases of orangutans being smuggled or deliberately captured.”

These baby orangutans were confiscated from a trafficker in Indonesia's Aceh province in 2015. Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah
These baby Sumatran orangutans were confiscated from a trafficker in Indonesia’s Aceh province in 2015. Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah/Mongabay

The Bornean orangutan’s new “critically endangered” status was not surprising, said Chaerul Saleh, a wildlife conservation specialist with WWF-Indonesia who worked on the 2007 action plan.

Saleh said that when the plan was drafted, the authors assumed that many of Indonesia’s environmental problems would have been brought under control by now.

“Not to point fingers at anyone, but at the time, we didn’t imagine that forest conversion, habitat loss and hunting could still be happening,” he said.

After last year’s devastating agricultural fires, caused by slash-and-burn land clearing practices and an extended dry season brought on by El Nino, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo declared a ban on new oil palm permits and on developing peat bogs, whose widespread draining and drying for agriculture creating the conditions for the fires to spread.

Oil palm plantations encroach on Bornean rainforest. As habitat loss continues, orangutan rehabilitation centers are struggling to cope with demand. There is an urgent need to reintroduce animals, but some scientists warn that doing so without making sure that orangutans are released into the regions that they originally came from could jeopardise populations. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Oil palm plantations encroach on Bornean rainforest. As habitat loss continues, orangutan rehabilitation centers are struggling to cope with demand. There is an urgent need to reintroduce animals, but some scientists warn that doing so without making sure that orangutans are released into the regions that they originally came from could jeopardize populations. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Many orangutans are trafficked for sale as pets. More than 70 were traded in this way between November 2015 and April, according to the WWF.

“That’s something we never imagined — that [owning] an orangutan would somehow become a trend, a lifestyle, even a status symbol. To me that’s a horrible fact,” Saleh said.

“Yes, there’s law enforcement. But people do not realize that one baby orangutan being sold means that at least one female orangutan [the mother] died in the process. And that contributes to the population decline.”

Orphaned baby orangutan at a facility run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme in North Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
An orphaned baby orangutan at a facility run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme in North Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Last year,  the Environment and Forestry Ministry named 25 “priority species,” including the Bornean orangutan, and set a target to increase each of their populations by 10% over 2013 levels by 2019. That’s 2% per year.

That’s an ambitious target, said Meijaard, the conservation scientist, considering the Bornean orangutan is currently declining at a rate of 2.5% per year.

“Orangutans are very slow breeders, so an increase of 2% [per year] is pretty much impossible,” he said.

“But what the government should certainly do is to work out strategy, and commit to it, allocate staff and fund it, that stabilizes all remaining orangutan populations. Realistically, that is the best they can hope for.”

Saleh added that the government needs private sector support, since more than half of all orangutan habitat overlaps with forest area designated for something other than conservation.


The 2016 Indigenous Peoples International Day

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