Singapore approves anti-haze bill and Jokowi eyes drones to stop land misuse (update 2)

Khor Reports: While a study quoted in debunks the view that palm oil plantations are the key culprit in Indonesia deforestation (blame fibre plantations!), Singapore passes its anti-haze bill. Jokowi, Indonesia's next president speaks of embarking on a more balanced development approach, to protect forests and challenge land misuse with the use of drones. The Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla manifesto has an interesting new approach laid out in it. This calls to mind the expanding efforts by Brazil to change its approach to rein in its rates of deforestation (read our blog posting on it here: /khorreports-palmoil/2014/07/how-brazil-clamped-down-on-deforestation.html)

Update 2 - adds on Malaysia planned usage of drones.

News links:

Singapore approves bill to fine companies that cause air pollution, Aug 5 — "Singapore’s parliament passed a bill today proposing fines for companies that cause haze pollution regardless of whether the companies operate on the island. Last year, Singapore suffered its worst haze on record, as smoke from forest clearing in neighbouring Indonesia shrouded the city. Some of the forest clearing was believed to have been done by plantation companies with Singapore connections. The bill will go to the president who will sign it into law.... Under the bill, companies found guilty of causing haze could be fined up to S$100,000 (RM255,837) for each day they pollute, with the maximum aggregate amount being S$2 million. They will also be subject to civil claims from parties who say they have suffered damage caused by haze.... The bill targets entities directly or indirectly involved in slash-and-burn, and grants use of circumstantial evidence to prosecutors, such as satellite images or maps from non-government organisations. Defendants will bear the onus to prove the evidence wrong.The law is designed to have extra-territorial reach, meaning it could be applied to culprits outside Singapore, though enforcement might be difficult.... Lawmakers hope overseas companies will comply to retain access to Southeast Asia’s banking and business hub. A number of palm oil and forestry companies are listed on the Singapore Exchange...."

Fibre production drives deforestation in Indonesia - Study debunks belief that palm-oil plantations are main culprit. by Natasha Gilbert 21 July 2014; "Palm-oil plantations are generally though to be the main driver of deforestation in Indonesia, which is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forest and has the highest rate of forest loss. But fibre plantations — where species such as Acacia mangium are grown for use in pulp and paper production — now seem to be the main culprit.... Of the 14.7 million hectares of forest destroyed between 2000 and 2010, 12.8% was removed for fibre plantations, 12.5% for logging and 6.8% for palm-oil plantations; the remainder was removed for mixed concessions and mining1. All told, 45% of forest loss during the period occurred on land leased to industry..."

Reference to Abood, S. A., Lee, J. S. H., Burivalova, Z., Garcia-Ulloa, J. & Koh, L. P. Conserv. Lett. (2014): "We found that the four industries accounted for ~44.7% (~6.6 Mha) of forest loss in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Papua, Sulawesi, and Moluccas between 2000 and 2010. Fiber plantation and logging concessions accounted for the largest forest loss (~1.9 Mha and ~1.8 Mha, respectively). Although the oil palm industry is often highlighted as a major driver of deforestation, it was ranked third in terms of deforestation (~1 Mha), and second in terms of carbon dioxide emissions (~1,300 – 2,350 Mt CO2). Crucially, ~34.6% (~26.8 Mha) of Indonesia’s remaining forests is located within industrial concessions, the majority of which is found within logging concessions (~18.8 Mha). Hence, future development plans within Indonesia’s industrial sectors weigh heavily on the fate of Southeast Asia’s remaining forests and carbon stocks...."

Haze Fines Win Indonesia’s Support With Caveats: Southeast Asia, By Brian Leonal and Fitri Wulandari  Jul 30, 2014 12:55 PM GMT+0800; "Joko Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi who won this month’s presidential election, agrees that companies implicated in unlawful fires may be fair game for Singapore’s enforcers. The sticking point is the sovereignty of Indonesia, where “incredibly prickly” officials have yet to join other ASEAN nations in signing a transboundary-haze pact, according to the Jakarta office of Control Risks Group. ... “We should have some detailed protocols to guarantee the sovereignty of Indonesia,” said Sonny Keraf, Indonesia’s environment minister from 1999-2001 and adviser to Jokowi. “But we do appreciate the commitment of the government in Singapore to penalize these companies’ activities,” he said in an interview this month.... Singapore’s new fines will require Indonesia to cooperate with gathering evidence in its territories, which may be seen as infringement, said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University. The city would need “watertight” evidence to win in local courts, he said. By pursuing culprits in Indonesia, Singapore may risk retaliation, said Alan Khee-Jin Tan of the National University of Singapore Law School. “There is a likelihood of Indonesian lawmakers enacting retaliatory laws that target individuals or entities in Singapore for infringing Indonesian law,” Tan said. “That would be diplomatically messy.”.... Jokowi will push to extend the ASEAN pact beyond haze to include other environmental threats, Keraf said. Jokowi also plans to continue a moratorium on new permits to develop peatlands and primary forests. The ban, set to expire in 2015, was part of an agreement for $1 billion in aid from Norway.... The next president wants a network of drones to help monitor and stop land misuse across an archipelago of 17,000 islands that would stretch from New York to Alaska. “Drones are not only for the military but also for the economy, like for illegal logging,” Jokowi said in an interview on July 21...."

About drones usage: Ecologist Lian Pin Koh makes a persuasive case for using drones to protect the world's forests and wildlife. These lightweight autonomous flying vehicles can track animals in their natural habitat, monitor the health of rainforests, even combat crime by detecting poachers via thermal imaging. Added bonus? They're also entirely affordable. TEDGlobal 2013  ·  13:30  · Filmed Jun 2013;

Malaysia: Command centre to fight illegal deforestation; Updated: Wednesday August 6, 2014 MYT 7:47:17 AM; "A command centre, under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, will be set up to manage and patrol forest areas to deter unscrupulous people from clearing land here. “We will streamline and have a systematic approach to patrol the forest areas to try to catch and stop people from burning and cutting down trees,” ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Zoal Azha Yusoff told the media yesterday.... “At the moment, we have 10 to 15 officers involved and they will be conducting the patrols,” he said, adding that unmanned aerial drones would be used to capture photographs of culprits in action. Palanivel said he would discuss with Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on issuing temporary occupation licences (TOLs) to certain farmers to stop them from clearing new land. “We can’t evict them. Agriculture is important. But the farmers need to follow regulations,” said Palanivel, who is Cameron Highlands MP...."