Roundtable with Coral Triangle Center and NEWRI:  Lessons on Water and Waste Management

Roundtable with Coral Triangle Center and NEWRI: Lessons on Water and Waste Management

by Felicia Hanitio, APC Indonesia

In the world’s largest archipelago nation, millions rely on the ocean for food, livelihood, pleasure, protection from storms, and even air to breathe. However, Indonesia’s most precious resource is being threatened by various environmental issues ranging from irresponsible fishing, to plastic waste pollution, to climate change. While Indonesian family philanthropists have historically focused on education and health, recently more and more have been turning their attention to the topic of environmental sustainability—particularly how new business models & private-public partnerships can be developed to integrate environmental sustainability with economic development.  It was with this question in mind that 15 APC Indonesia members and guests gathered on August 1st at the Presidential Suite of Hotel Indonesia Kempinski for APC’s third Indonesia roundtable of the year, hosted by Victor Hartono, APC Indonesia Chair.

The roundtable kicked off with an introduction by Pak George Tahija, Founder and Chairman of the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) followed by a presentation from CTC’s executive director, Rili Djohani. The Coral Triangle is a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean and includes the waters of several nations, of which Indonesia is at the heart and epicenter of biodiversity in the region. Currently, over 120 million people live in the Coral Triangle and rely on its coral reefs for food, income and protection from storms and fish harvest in the Coral Triangle generates 1.6 billion dollars annually for Indonesia. CTC works with government and coastal communities in the Nusa Penida marine protected area (MPA) off the island of Bali to build local capacity in sustainable fish harvesting such as collaborating with dive operators and fishermen in reef health monitoring techniques and advocating sustainable practices to preserve their coral reefs and in turn, their own livelihood. Through this exchange in learning, CTC found out that that these fishermen were much more accurate at identifying fish species than the marine conservation experts!

While traditionally, there has been a lack of local philanthropists’’ attention to environmental conservation and environmental organisations in Indonesia relied up to 90% of their donations from foreign donors, there has been a shift in recent years where local philanthropists and the Indonesian government have expanded their focus to ensure the sustainability of their country. The Indonesian government has committed to expanding current MPAs to 30 million hectares by 2030, and building up communities that live around these MPAs. The CTC has also been trying to establish new MPAs in Indonesia and at the same time, set up educational initiatives at the interactive Center for Marine Conservation in Sanur Bali. Local philanthropists and businesses can collaborate through partnerships for learning programmes and supporting the tourism board in promoting sustainable tourism as well as help to integrate environmental sustainability into teacher training programmes and school curriculum. They can also help to create new MPAs.

A second presentation by Prof Shane Alllen Snyder, Executive Director of Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) had members discussing waste management. NEWRI is a research institute with a focus on waste recovery and engineering solutions and their research emphasises on solutions that can be scaled up with viable economic and social output. While most waste management solutions are focused on distributed, “social science” solutions, which is difficult to control & drive compliance, NEWRI works on instituionalised, centralised mass scale solutions that are economically viable. Prof Snyder explained that instead of banning plastic, a more productive approach is the recovery of plastic and engineering them to be more biodegradable and marine-degradable. NEWRI has collaborated with the Lien Environmental Fellowship programme on the Gift of Water initiative, which improved water, sanitation & renewable energy for developing communities in 10 countries throughout Asia, through low cost and simple solutions. Other technologies that NEWRI is currently developing includes converting food waste to biofertilisers with zero solid and into industrial chemicals and fuels, the biotransformation of carbon dioxide into high-value chemicals, and the turning of mixed plastic waste into fuel oil and carbon nanotubes (for electronics, nanotech, biotech, materials, even self-sensing cement for traffic monitoring).

NEWRI is currently supported by three facilities to help with their scale-up, commercialisation and demonstration of waste separation, waste-to-energy, and waste water treatment technologies. Currently, they are housed on the campus of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the basic unit for a food waste processing machine there is USD $1000. While the cost is not high, there is a need for philanthropy to be the pioneers in creating a sustainable future by being aware of the direct climate implication of current actions and strategically seek solutions.

APC Indonesia Members at NEWRI Site Visit on 15 August

In concluding remarks, members felt that a collaborative approach that harnesses the strength of different stakeholders is necessary for environmental conservation. Inspired by the discussion, members voiced their interest in learning more about the different technologies that NEWRI had developed and talked about a site visit. Following the session, APC quickly organised for several APC Indonesia members and their teams for a site visit at NEWRI on 15 August. Participating members included members and guests from the Djarum Foundation, Bakti Barito Foundation, Jababeka Group and guests from United in Diversity.

To learn more about NEWRI and collaborating on environment sustainability, please reach contact APC Secretariat for more information