In brief... DTE 87 - December 2010

Down to Earth 87, December 2010

Biochar project, West Papua

A French company called Green Charcoal International has announced it has been asked to install a biochar factory in Papua, to produce 2,000 tons of fine biochar every year, resulting 'from several types of vegetal waste such as imperata, jatropha husks, coconut shells and cocoa pods'. (, via Biofuelwatch).

For an NGO statement issued last year to highlight concerns with biochar, click here see


Coal mining for West Papua

In October, the Manokwari district government sent a 22-member delegation, including indigenous and local government representatives, to China's Luijang City. This was to observe and study the local economy as model of rapid economic development, according to the Papuan newspaper, Cendrawasih Pos.  The invitation came from one of China's top ten biggest businessman, Chaiwu He, who wants to invest in coal-mining in 5 areas in West Papua (Momiwaren, Nedey, Didohu, Dataran Izim and Sururey). The company is named as Far East, led by  Dan Birmingham from Australia. The plan, which has been welcomed by the Manokwari district government, is to start the project in 2012. (CP 20/Oct/2010).


Coral die-off hits Southeast Asia

International scientists have said that the worst coal die-off since 1998 in Southeast Asia in recent months highlights the urgency of controlling global carbon emissions. Coral bleaching has affected an area from Sri Lanka to Eastern Indonesia, including the highly biodiverse 'Coral Triangle' in the seas bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Dr Andrew Baird of James Cook University said coral cover in the affected region could drop from an average 50% to around 10%, striking at local fishing and regional tourism industries and the tens of millions of people who make their living from the sea. The bleaching is most severe in Aceh. (South East Asia Tourism Monitor, Sept-Oct 2010).
 Meanwhile, at the biodiversity summit (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan, governments agreed a 20-point plan, including measures to protect marine areas. The October meeting agreed to protect 17% of land and inland waters and 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.  At present 13% of land and 1% of oceans are protected for conservation. (Reuters 1/Nov/2010).

Wasior Floods due to deforestation

Flash floods in Wasior, West Papua, killed at least 110 people in October, destroying homes and livelihoods. Forestry minister Zilkifli Hasan said the floods were caused by illegal logging, while his secretary-general said expansion of office and housing facilities into forest areas was also to blame. Activists from Green Indonesia Institute, JATAM (Indonesia's mining advocacy network), WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) and Pusaka called on the government to review policies on natural resource management to avert future disasters. The groups said environmental damage upstream caused the floods. Here, much of the forested land in upstream areas had been converted for mining and plantations. Green Indonesia Institute data shows that the deforestation has hit 254,460 hectares in West Papua province, amounting to 25% of the country's deforestation. The government has awarded logging licences to 20 concessionaires totalling 3.5 million hectares; 16 mining permits (including coal) covering 2.7 million hectares; 13 licences to oil and gas companies covering 7.1 million hectares; and 219,021 hectares for plantation companies. (Jakarta Post 9/Oct/10).