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Deforestation and its impacts toward Indigenous Papuans

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Drone footage of the border between untouched land and the land cleared by Korindo on its Papua Agro Lestari concessions in Merauke – mighty.com

By : Julian Howay (*)

THE island of New Guinea or Papua in the South Pacific has a largely unspoiled tropical forest (75%). These forests were formed over thousands of years ago and spread from the lowlands, valleys, hills to the towering mountains. For outsiders, the largely virgin tropical forest of Papua holds a number of mysteries.

Forest exoticism on the island has become the last bastion of life providers for biodiversity in Indonesia and internationally. Not surprisingly, the powerful ocean explorers from Europe, China, Arabia and India who first landed on this land dubbed the island of New Guinea (Papua) as a dazzling world paradise that just began to be explored in the 19th century. The high value of biodiversity makes many natural scientists know Papua as the Major Tropical Wilderness Area (TWA), beside Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The total area of ​​tropical forests of the island of New Guinea (Papua) is about 73.8 million hectares (80%) of the land area or 22 percent of the land area of ​​Indonesia. From this total area, neighboring state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the east has 34 million hectares or 70 percent of the country’s territory. By this amount, approximately 25,211,000 hectares (55 percent) are primary forests and the rest are secondary forests.

Because of the important benefit of the forests, fundamentally the life of indigenous Papuans can not be separated from the natural environment such as land, water, oxygen and forests. For thousands of years, these forests have been the main provider of life for at least 1,187 indigenous tribes who inhabit the island of New Guinea (Papua). Divided between 312 indigenous tribes in western New Guinea (West Papua) which is now part of Indonesia and 875 tribes in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In the view of the Papuans, the nature of which belongs to the land and the forest is like a “life-giving mother.” In the life of a traditional sub-system living, the forests function as “natural supermarkets” which provide various food needs, the place of ritual actualization culture, entertainment, and as place to give them inspiration about life. Therefore, when the land and its natural resources such as forests are expropriated or damaged, Papuans as part of world indigenous people will suffer and are deprived of their cultural identity.

Unfortunately, the existence of tropical forests in Papua continues to shrink as degradation and deforestation rates occur over time. In the life of a traditional sub-system living, illegal logging and improper forest management of local people have caused the destruction of forests in Papua getting worsening. It could even say that it has entered an “emergency status.” Deforestation began in the 1980s when general Soeharto, the Indonesian Government military dictatorship issued a political economy policies that supported development and investment. But these policies were not friendly to the environment and local people who live around the forest.

From the total 73.8 million hectares of Papua’s forest area recorded in 2005, it is now drastically reduced. West Papua as a region on the western part of New Guinea is now the largest contributor to deforestation compared to neighboring state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the east. In 2005-2009, Papua’s forest area ranged from 42.22 million hectares. But three years later in 2011, it has experienced degradation to the remaining 30.07 million hectares.

Average deforestation rate in Papua ranging from 300,000 hectares (25%) per year. From these facts, Greenpeace, the international environmental organization recorded that the loss of Papua’s forest in the period of 2000-2009 ranged from 8.19 million hectares or on average 910,000 hectares of forest lost each year. Even some environmental NGOs like Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) estimate, the average of deforestation in Papua reaches one million hectares annually.

Some major causes of deforestation in Papua (Indonesia) consist of forest conversion by illegal logging and oil palm plantations, forest burning, mining, construction of roads and new settlements. Illegal logging and expansion of large-scale oil palm plantations are two main factors that caused the largest deforestation in Papua.

Illegal logging cases are generally done by licensed timber companies, but are cutting forests outside of their concession area. Large-scale palm oil plantations so far have been proven to bring environmental problems and disasters to the local community from the social aspect. In two regions in Indonesia such as Sumatra and Kalimantan, the presence of large scale oil palm plantations has impacted the destruction of thousands of hectares of primary forest.

As a result, local people as landowners who had been able to live peacefully only by depending on forest products, changed their lifestyles due to being low-wage palm oil planters. Local people are also uprooted from the cultural roots associated with the existence of the forest as a provider of life. In general, deforestation in Papua gives negative impacts towards the function of the forest as climate regulator, CO2 and oxygen producer and forest is no longer a life support provider.

Therefore, to reduce deforestation in Papua (Indonesia), there are some important things that can be done. First, the Indonesian government needs to change its political economy policy to provide the preservation and protection of forest. Second, the government need to apply development policies oriented to sustainable development that does not destroy the forest.

Third, supervision and law enforcement against any perpetrator of environmental crime and destruction of forests. Fourth, the government need to empower the local communities (indigenous people), who live around the forest to engage in surveillance efforts, conservation and sustainable use of forests.

Fifth, the government must commit to implementing policies related to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) mechanism in order to reduce carbon emissions by providing compensation to the parties (including local communities) in the prevention of deforestation and forest degradation. Sixth, replanting (reforestation) and rehabilitation of degraded forest with native plants that are beneficial to the local communities.

Advocacy efforts and the joint campaign of saving Papua’s forests have been ongoing since 2006. This campaign was formulated into a major theme: “Save the Forest and Papuan” or in bahasa (Indonesia language) “Selamatkan Hutan dan Manusia Papua.” The reason is that Papua’s forests and its indigenous people are so intertwined that the rescue effort is a heavy task and must be taken seriously.

Given the increasingly deteriorating condition of forests, it is necessary to engage customary institutions as active government partners in the preparation, establishment, socialization and implementation of forest management governance. Law implementation and strict sanction is required to stop illegal logging perpetrators.

In conclusion, Papua’s vast tropical forest riches are a God’s gift worthy of being grateful as well as protected. Do not let this valuable gift be a curse in the future. By saving the forests of Papua, it means saving the natural wealth of humans and the invaluable Papuan culture. We have to do something to save the people and the forest of Papua for the better future. Save the forest, save the future !

*) Julian Howay is a freelance journalist and environmental activist.

Arts & Culture

What is the most attractive thing to see in FDS 2018?

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Illustration of traditional Papuan dance – Jubi / Engel Wally

Sentani, Jubi – Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw stated traditional food produced from sago and cultural performances would be the two most attractive things to see in Lake Sentani Festival (FDS) 2018.

Furthermore, he said location, where the festival takes place, must be set attractively to avoid an impression of a night fair event or a regular traditional market.

Those who will be directly involved in performances at the FDS, such as dancers, must wear cultural costumes. They are not allowed to wear anything else on stage,” he said.

The Second Vice Chairman of Jayapura House of Representatives Kornels Yanuaring said the FDS, which is an annual government agenda, should have a positive impact on the local community.

Visitors should acquire clear information about this event; what would perform in this festival. So, we could see their interest on the event, and it could be an indicator of the income for the local community,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Engel Wally

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Environment

WWF promotes customary map in Tambrauw

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Training participant on a mapping of primary sites of indigenous peoples in Tambraw District by WWF Indonesia Program Papua – Jubi / doc WWF.

 

Tambrauw, Jubi – WWF Indonesia Papua Program is mapping the indigenous peoples’ landmark with 1: 50,000 scale to support the preparation of the Spacial Plan of Tambrauw District, West Papua Province.

The two-day training conducted on 17 – 18 May 2018 in Sausapor is also aimed to build a partnership with the local government and other institutions who have a similar concern in mapping.

WWF Indonesia Program Coordinator Wika A. Rumbiak said that the mapping of primary sites in Tambraw District is a series of the process of socio-cultural and spatial mappings which conducted to show representative of indigenous people’s space pattern.

“Hopefully, this participatory mapping can accommodate the rights of the community in spatial planning, which stated in Article 2 of Government Regulation (PP) No. 69 of 1996,” said Wika, Saturday (19/5/2018).

The training result, said Wika, is a common understanding about developing a rational and measurable planning method. That is by applying participatory mapping and the development of expertise and knowledge, in processing spatial data with GIS (Geospatial Information System).

The training involves some related regional government offices including the Village and Community Development Office (Dinas Pemberdayaan Masyarakat and Kampung), the Environment Office, Regional Development and Planning Board, and the Tambrauw Forestry Office.

“The involvement of regional government offices in this training is to prepare the participatory mapping facilitators and to improve their knowledge on Geospatial Information System (GIS) for inputting spatial data entries,” said Wika. (*)

Reporter: Hans Kapisa

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Environment

No notification, indigenous landowners are victimized

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The Chairman of Tenure Right Special Committee, Nathaniel Paliting take a picture with indigenous landowners from Kaptel Sub-district – Jubi/Frans L Kobun

Jayapura, Jubi – Dozens of people from eight clans in Kaptel Sub-district, Merauke headed by the Sub-district Chief Wister Hutapea came to the local parliament office on Monday, 30 April 2018 to meet the Chairman of Tenure Right Special Committee Nathaniel Paliting and two representatives of PT Nufta.

A clan chief Lukas Samkakai revealed that since 2011, PT Nutfa opened the land for the industrial planting forest. However, the company never announced their land clearing activity to the eight clans of the landowners. People then complained the 1300 hectares of planned 65,000 hectares of land clearing by the company. As a result, the company agreed to meet the community and agreed to pay Rp 300 million compensation.

“We agreed with the price and the company gave us Rp 20 million in October 2017. Then, they promised to pay the rest of amount in the near There is no response or further follow up after this payment,” said Samkakai. After waiting for so long, they decided to come to the Merauke Regional Council Office.

The Chief of Kaptel Sub-district, Wister Hutapea admitted the company cleared the land of the two clans so far, but not yet the six clans’. As a sub-district chief, I absolutely cannot be silent; I have to support the indigenous landowners’ rights,” he said. Therefore, he expects the regional council of Merauke can accommodate people by forcing the company to pay such compensation. If not people will be complaining and it would affect the company’s operation.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Tenure Right Special Committee, Nathaniel Paliting said the meeting between the council and representatives of eight clans and company representatives was a follow up of the visit of councillors to Kampung Boepe a few times ago.

“We facilitated this meeting to enable these representatives to sit together and talk. As a response, the two representatives of PT Nutfa said they have to ask further guidance from their director in Jakarta,” he said.

The council, further Paliting said, gives three days for the company to settle their response towards the people’s demand.

“I listened to the company’s talk that there is an agreement between the company and community about the land clearing in 2011,” he said.

Based on this evidence, the committee asked the company to provide the agreement for further review. “We don’t know about it in detail. They must present the contract upon us for taking immediate steps so that people from the eight clans would not be in the same situation anymore,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Frans Kobun

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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