5 Biggest Environmental Stories of 2012
03 January 2013 - Jakarta Globe. It is a tradition in mass media to compile an end-of-the-year list. While the Jakarta Globe has covered "Indonesian Stories That Raised Eyebrows in 2012" and "The Biggest News Stories of 2012 Have Only Just Begun," do not forget to take a moment to review environmental issues.
Indonesia is often dubbed as a country plagued with amnesia. Hence, here are a few of environmental stories that made headlines over the past year — those that still need to be followed up in 2013.
Illegal Wildlife Trading
Indonesian Police arrested a Depok resident in possession of dozens of stuffed rare animals and pelts in July — after a long hiatus on breaking down illegal wildlife trading.
At least 25 stuffed animals and pelts of rare and protected species were seized by the police, in Cimanggis, Depok, West Java, in the July raid.
The items confiscated included 14 tigers, two leopards, one clouded leopard, a lion and three bears. There were also two sacks full of tiger pelts, as well as a stuffed tiger head and four deer heads. This was considered as the biggest bust involving animal body parts.
In August, the Forestry Ministry arrested an antique dealer selling the skin of an endangered Sumatran tiger. At least four people were caught red-handed in Cilandak, South Jakarta, while attempting to sell a Sumatran tiger skin and a Javan leopard pelts.
Both cases violated the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, for which the perpetrators could get up to five years in prison and up to Rp 100 million ($10,325) in fines.
The suspect in July bust, identified as Feri, was charged under the aforementioned law but was later released on bail. Both cases triggered fierce campaigns on major online shops in the country to stop facilitation transactions on rare and protected animals.
Orangutans Let Free
In 2012, there were still news about orangutans being kept as pets. But over the past year, at least 44 orangutans have been released and brought back into the wild from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundatio's Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Center in Central Kalimantan.
Meanwhile, another six orangutans were set free from the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Reintroduction Program and Land Rehabilitation in East Kalimantan. The orangutans were sent to the Kehje Sewen forest, an ecosystem restoration area in the province.
There are still at least 600 orangutans waiting to be released. This release will contribute to the target set by the presidentially-mandated Indonesian Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 2007-2017. The plan was announced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2005.
The Birth of Andatu, Rare Sumatran Rhino
2012 was dubbed as the International Year of Rhino. A critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros gave birth in captivity in June in more than a century.
The birth was recorded in history as the first successful breeding outside its natural habitat. The male calf was named "Andatu," an acronym from his father "Andalas" and his mother "Ratu." In Bahasa Indonesia, Andatu means "Anugerah Dari Tuhan" or Gift From God.
Andatu was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park, Lampung.
Indonesia, where one of only 11 nations where rhinos are found, is lucky to be the birthplace of Andatu. The country has two kinds of rhinos: the one-horned Javan rhino with only 35 left in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java and the two-horned Sumatran Rhino, which only 200 left in the wild.
Tripa Peat Swamp and Environmental Crime
The Tripa peat swamp was the highest profile case in Indonesia since 2011. The debacle caught intense attention both from the Indonesian authorities and the international world.
The case was brought into attention by local people in Aceh in late 2011 revealing issuance of a permit to clear 1,605 hectares of forest inside the Leuser ecosystem in Nagan Raya district by then-governor Irwandi Yusuf to a plantation company Kalista Alam in the Tripa area. The permit issuance was a breach to Indonesia’s commitment on forest moratorium, which was pledged in 2009.
The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) then filed a lawsuit against Irwandi to revoke the permit. The Indonesian authority, under the REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation) task force, also took action by requesting the Ministry of Environment to conduct investigation over the case.
Both institutions have claimed that the permit was violating the moratorium agreement. In September this year, Walhi won the lawsuit at the Medan State Administrative Court, North Sumatra, which called for Aceh administration to scrap the permit awarded for the company.
The ruling was then followed through by the now-elected Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah in September, who finally revoked the permit of the company in Tripa.
The Tripa forest, part of the rich Leuser Ecosystem, is home to the world’s densest population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans and one of the few places on earth where orangutans, Sumatran tigers and sun bears can still be found living side-by-side.
There is still ongoing court process over the Ministry of Environment.
Hazardous Toxic Waste
The beginning of 2012 started off with 113 containers of dangerous and hazardous waste mixed with scrap metals entered Tanjung Priok harbor shipped from England and Netherlands.
This hazardous waste was said to be the "largest shipment" ever transported into the country and became an important issue from Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo at that moment.
The 113 containers were sent back to its original country: 89 containers to England and 24 containers to Netherlands. It did not stop there. The customs widened its inspection and targeted an additional 3,446 containers from Tanjung Priok, 130 containers at the Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, 11 containers at the Tanjung Emas port in Semarang and 77 containers at the Belawan port in Medan.
As a result, the ministry was bombarded with protesters claiming from scrap metal association and demanded to release the containers as they might lose their income.
From the law enforcement side, the ministry is currently investigating 254 containers and preparing for legal actions based on the 2009 Law on Environmental Management and Protection, the 2008 Law on Waste Management and the 1995 Customs Law for violating the documents. Currently, eight people were declared as suspects: two Chinese and the rest were Indonesians.