In brief... DTE 78 - August 2008

Down to Earth No.78, August 2008

Posthumous award for indigenous leader

Bapak Raja J.P. Rahail, an indigenous leader from the Kei islands in eastern Indonesia was posthmously awarded the Asia Indigenous Peoples Prize at a meeting of Asian indigenous groups in July. He was praised for his role in strengthening indigenous institutions and for his handling of conflict in the area.

The meeting, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, celebrated the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and discussed how indigenous peoples should face obstacles to its implementation in their countries. (Announcement, 2/Aug/08 by AMAN - the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago).


Pollution ratings

The Indonesian government has issued pollution ratings for hundreds of companies, including multinational mining, pulp and oil and gas companies, in a voluntary scheme which measures performance in controlling water and air pollution, compliance with Environmental Impact Analysis and implementation of community schemes.

Copper and gold mining company Freeport Indonesia (whose Papua operations are part-financed by the UK-based company Rio Tinto) and the Indonesian subsidiary of Canada's nickel mining company Inco, got a 'blue minus' rating for "doing something for environmental management but not reaching the government's standard". The first ever gold rating went to Bandung-based geothermal firm Magna Nusantara Ltd, for energy savings expected to cut 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Several much-criticised companies, including Riau Andalan Pulp, Indah Kiat, Toba Pulp and miners Newmont Nusa Tenggara got the 'green' status which means they have exceeded government standards. Lapindo, the company accused of responsibility for the Sidoardjo mudflow disaster that has submerged villages and forced thousands of people from their homes, was awarded a 'blue' rating.

Environment minister Rachmat Witoelar said there was no reason for companies to ignore their environmental obligations as they had long been aware of global efforts to cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. He also said a number of companies in the worst 'black' category that had shown no improvement since the previous audit, would be sued if their poor performance was the result of negligence. (Jakarta Post17&26/Jul/08 and1/Aug/08)


New Tangguh report

The Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) has released a report of a visit to BP's giant gas project, Tangguh, in Bintuni Bay, West Papua. The report indicates difficulties for local Papuans who want jobs at the project, as well as problems for local people whose access to traditional fishing grounds has been limited. The report, by JATAM's Crisis Area Advocacy Manager, Hendrik Siregar, also points to increased tension between customary landowners in the Tangguh area, and pollution from shipping. The Indonesian language report is available at An English version is being prepared.

Iban Dayak community gets first adat forest certification

The indigenous Iban Dayak community of Sungai Utik, West Kalimantan has secured sustainable forest management cerification from Indonesia's ecolabelling body, LEI - the first ever for an adat (customary) forest area. The certification is the result of collaborative work between the community and civil society organisations, and should help them continue to defend their forest resources from developers including pulpwood and oil palm plantation companies.

The fact that the Sungai Utik Dayaks have been able to retain their traditional longhouse is central to their success in maintaining their forests, according to adat leader Pak Janggut. In contrast, surrounding villages have not been so lucky and moved into individual houses under a former government 'healthy homes' resettlement programme aimed at indigenous communities. Malaysian logging companies persuaded other villages to allow commercial logging in their forests by promising to build longhouses, in addition to earnings from logging.

The Sungai Utik forests are rich in biodiversity and provide the community with timber as well as many non-timber products such as resins, rattan, fruit and medicinal plants.

For further background on this community's forest management see DTE 70. (Source: Antara 6/Aug/08; LEI Press Release 15/Jul/08 at


Jatigede dam project again

Plans by the new governor of West Java to go ahead with plans to build a controversial dam are being opposed by environmental and legal rights groups. The project, first planned in the 1960s would displace more than 70,000 people and submerge 30 villages. According to Walhi (Friends of the Earth) Bandung, the dam would also involved flooding 1,200 hectares of forest managed by state-owned company Perhutani and cause large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide emissions. Around 3,200 of the 4,892 hectares planned for the dam is arable land, according to WALHI, which can yield 80,000 tonnes of rice per year.

The project has a murky history: in 2004, Bandung's Legal Aid Institute exposed the embezzlement of more than Rp 6 billion (then around USD 700,000) from funds meant for compensation and public facilities for displaced villagers (see DTE 61). (Source: Jakarta Post 18/Jun/08)