Haze triggers health issues for Indonesian orangutans, rehab center swings into treatment mode

UNTV News   •   September 18, 2019   •   231

More than thirty orangutans in Kalimantan on Tuesday (September 17) were being treated at a rehabilitation center suffering from respiratory issues triggered by smokey forest fires in Indonesia.

Officials from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) reported that 31 orangutans were suffering from various breathing-related ailments and were being treated with nebulizers and antibiotics.

They said the fires were barely 300 meters from one of the rehabilitation centers in Nyaru Menteng.

The air pollution index in Palangka Raya, the capital of Central Kalimantan province on Borneo, has been at a “dangerous” level for days. Schools in Palangka Raya and another city in Central Kalimantan, Sampit, have been closed this week.

Fires have ripped through more than 328,000 hectares of forests and peatlands in Indonesia since January, causing a choking haze to envelop some cities in Borneo and the island of Sumatra, according to the country’s disaster mitigation agency. (REUTERS)

(Production: Heru Asprihanto, Yuddy Cahya)

Indonesian president visits island in waters disputed by Beijing

UNTV News   •   January 8, 2020

Jakarta – The president of Indonesia on Wednesday visited an island in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid a weeks-long standoff between Indonesian and Chinese vessels, an outgrowth of the ongoing territorial spat in which Jakarta and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the area.

Joko Widodo made the symbolic trip to Natuna Besar – the main island of the Middle Natuna Archipelago in the Riau Islands province – in a bid to assert Indonesia’s claims of ownership of the waters. There, he met with local fishermen and talked to reporters.

“I am here too to ensure law enforcement for our sovereign rights – our country’s sovereign rights – over the richness of our marine natural resources in the exclusive economic zone,” Widodo said. “Why are Bakamla (the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency) and the Navy here? To ensure the rule of law.”

The leader, who was re-elected to a second term in April of last year, added that Indonesia had a district, a regent and a governor in the area. “There are no more debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”

Meanwhile, Geng Shuang, the main spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Beijing had repeatedly reiterated its sovereignty and jurisdiction over relevant waters in the South China Sea.

“I have to stress that China and Indonesia have no territorial sovereignty disputes. Our claims for maritime interests in certain waters in South China Sea overlap,” Geng said. “We are ready to properly handle the differences with Indonesia and uphold the peace and stability in the region as well as our two countries’ relations. Actually, we have been in communication through diplomatic channels.”

The face-off between the two Asian nations erupted in the second half of December when a Chinese coast guard ship that was escorting several fishing vessels entered waters that Jakarta says belong to its EEZ (though Beijing claims the waters as its own, along with most of the South China Sea).

In response to the incursion, Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador, issued a letter of protest and sent warships and fighter jets to strengthen its military presence in the area, which it re-named the North Natuna Sea in 2017. Beijing, in turn, deployed another coast guard boat.

On Tuesday, Indonesia sent four more warships as reinforcement. The Southeast Asian country currently has a naval presence of 10 military vessels around Natuna.

The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.

Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA

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Indonesia strengthens its military presence in disputed maritime zone

UNTV News   •   January 8, 2020

Indonesian president Joko Widodo

Jakarta – Indonesia has strengthened its military presence in the South China Sea by deploying four warships in response to the presence of Chinese vessels in the area, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Defense commander, Yudo Margono, on Tuesday told local media Kompas that a fishing boat and two Chinese coast guards vessels remained in the waters near Natuna Islands, which Jakarta considers as its exclusive economic zone.

However, Beijing claims the islands as its own along with almost all of the South China Sea.

With these ships, the Indonesian armed forces have now deployed 10 military vessels in the area in the face of China’s apparent territorial ambitions.

Chinese fishing boats arrived in Natuna towards the end of December, prompting the Indonesian foreign ministry to summon the Chinese ambassador in Jakarta and send a diplomatic letter defending its territorial sovereignty.

“There is no negotiation when it comes to our sovereignty,” Indonesian president Joko Widodo had said during a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi issued a statement on Monday asking China to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which it is a party.

Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, on his part, announced ending 120 fishing vessels to the disputed maritime region, which was named North Natuna Sea by Jakarta in 2017.

The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.

Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA

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Indonesia seeks to improve warning system as it marks 15 years since tsunami

UNTV News   •   December 26, 2019

Tsunami survivors pray for their relatives at the Siron Mass Grave in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, 26 December 2019. EFE/EPA/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK

Jakarta/Banda Aceh – Indonesia on Thursday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the deadly tsunami that killed around 227,000 people in 14 countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, amid efforts to improve its diminished early warning system.

Groups of Indonesians went to pray in front of mass graves in northern Sumatra’s Aceh province, the Ground Zero of the tragedy, where thousands of victims have been buried.

Almost all the Indonesian casualties due to the tsunami — caused by a magnitude-9.3 earthquake — were registered in Aceh.

Life has gone back to normal in this tropical province, where many survivors have rebuilt their homes in the same place the originals were swept away by waves of up to 30 meters (98 feet) high.

Following the disaster, countries around the Indian Ocean — such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Yemen, and Tanzania — have improved their response capabilities, but the system’s maintenance has been poor in the Indonesian archipelago.

In 2008, Indonesia launched an expensive alert system with 22 buoys, but they stopped working four years later due to vandalism and poor maintenance.

Although Indonesia has seismic sensors in place to detect earthquakes and tsunamis, they are less efficient than the buoys.

The shortcomings of the system came to light in September last year, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami on the island of Sulawesi claimed the lives of 4,300 people.

Consequently, the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology began installing the first four buoys of a new network that will have 12 devices operational by 2021.

The authorities will also install two underwater fiber-optic cables for real-time transmission of sensor measurements.

Each buoy costs more than 5 billion Indonesian rupees (around $355,000), including maintenance, while the planned 1,000 kilometers (around 620 miles) of fiber-optic cables could cost more than 1 trillion rupees (some $71 million).

“Why more buoys now? It’s a lot of money for nothing,” Indonesian Institute of Science geophysicist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja told EFE, saying that there are cheaper alternatives such as IDSL Sea Level Measurement Devices developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.

In addition, some Aceh residents continue to feel insecure in the face of a shortage of awareness programs and drills conducted by authorities in what is one of the most prone countries to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions on Earth.

“The communities, especially those in urban areas, should have received training in dealing with disasters in the overall disaster mitigation contest (programs), not only the people on the coast,” Fitri, a resident of provincial capital Banda Aceh, told EFE.

She added that most of the time the mock drills and training for natural disaster response have been conducted only in schools and not included the rest of the community.

Nazli Ismail, geophysics professor at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, criticized a lack of specific regulations in government evacuation plans and poor preparedness in protecting people against the risk of any future tsunami.

The memory of the devastating waves that swept through entire villages remains alive in Indonesia, where one can still visit ships that were dragged up to 4 kilometers inland and have now been converted into museums.

In Banda Aceh, more than 50 people managed to survive on Dec. 26, 2004 by climbing onto one of these boats that was swept in by the water and lodged on top of a house.

A museum and some remnants of preserved ruins also serve to recall the tsunami in the province, which for decades suffered a separatist conflict that was resolved after the tragedy.

After Indonesia, the countries with the most number of victims were Sri Lanka, with more than 35,000 dead, India (16,000), Thailand (8,000), Myanmar (400-600), Somalia (289), the Maldives (108), and Malaysia (75), among others. EFE-EPA

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