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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.

Environment

Thought extinct for 90 years, rare tree kangaroo photographed in West Papua Province

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Long thought to be extinct, what is believed to be a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo has been spotted for the first time in 90 years in West Papua, Indonesia – Submitted by Michael Smith

In the summer of 2017, amateur botanist Michael Smith was searching the mountains of West Papua, Indonesia, for a rare type of rhododendron.

But he learned about something even more rare that might be found in the area — the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo.

Smith, from Farnham, U.K., embarked on another trip this summer to try to spot the elusive marsupial; believed by many to be extinct.

“I decided I’d come back for another look, another expedition the next year,” Smith said in an interview with As It Happens host Carol Off.

Smith, along with a guide and local hunter, spent 10 days high in the mountains trying to find it.

They almost gave up. But on their final day, the team finally got a rare glimpse of, and photographed, what is believed to be a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo — the first one seen in 90 years.

“[The local hunter] knew about tree kangaroos, but he’d never seen them before because no one’s actually been quite so high in the mountains,” said Smith, who studied biology in university and now works for a medical communications company.

“It was almost a kind of a legend, even to the local hunters.”

Before going public with his find, he reached out to experts on tree kangaroos, including Mark Eldridge, a marsupial biologist at the Australian Museum, according to National Geographic.

Eldridge believes Smith saw the real thing.

“Knowing [the animal] still exists provides a great opportunity to gather more information, since we know virtually nothing about it, as well as to ensure its survival,” Eldridge told the magazine.

Spotted, shot and killed

There have been no reported sightings of the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo since 1928, when the first Westerner to spot one, biologist Ernst Mayr, shot and killed it in the mountains of the Wondiwoi Peninsula of West Papua, the Indonesian state on the western half of the island of New Guinea.

He donated the remains to the Natural History Museum in London.

Some have described it as looking like a cross between a monkey and a bear. But Smith likens it more to “a bear you see in the toy shop.”

“It’s got a round, fat face with a bit of a short nose. Couple of short fluffy ears, reddish gold fur. Short stubby arms and legs,” he said.

“[They] have great claws to cling on to the trees… and a tail to kind of hook around the branches as it goes along.”

More work to confirm

The Global Wildlife Conservation lists the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo as one of its 25 most-wanted lost species.

Smith said not much is known about the animal because it isn’t easy to find.

The marsupial lives in a tiny, isolated forest in the mountains of West Papua, and not many people head out there. Smith said only he and a few others have managed to brave the conditions.

“It’s hard work. You got sweat beads in your eyes and leeches in your boots and you slip around and it rains all the time,” he said.

“That might have deterred people a little bit, I suppose. It’s no walk in the park.”

Despite the excitement of possibly spotting the first Wondiwoi tree kangaroo in 90 years, Smith said more work still needs to be done to confirm if the animal is what they think it is.

He hopes he can go on another expedition to help collect some tree kangaroo dung and take it away for DNA analysis.

Smith added that he wants to help keep pursuing research on the animal because he feels a special connection to it.

“It’s sort of my responsibility now. You know, I’ve accidentally been the first person to meet with this animal for 90 years,” he said.

“I suppose I’ve just got to try and make sure that the very few tree kangaroos are left to survive for another 90.”(*)

 

Source: CBC Radio

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Green economy development would be on five indigenous territories

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Papua map based on indigenous region – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – The concept of green economy development in Papua will be based on the five customary territories to find out the potency of each region including mining, agriculture, plantations and livestock.

The Assistant for Economic Affairs and People’s Welfare of Papua Province Noak Kapisa told reporters in Jayapura on Tuesday (02/10/2018) that the green economy development concept is similar to the idea of sustainable development. It includes some aspects of economy, social and environment as well.

“For instance, the sago forests in the south namely in Merauke, Mappi, Asmat and in the North (Waropen, Mamberamo Raya, Mamberamo Tengah), and then in Jayapura. Everything would base on commodities and indigenous territories. Thus, this should apply a value chain process from upstream to downstream” he said.

Through the green economy development, he continued, the provincial government will map the potential commodities and their distribution in Papua.

“Not only sago, other commodities such as coffee, red fruit (pandanus sp.), sweet potatoes, and cocoa are also becoming the priorities in the green economy development,” he continued.

Furthermore, he said the provincial government is very appreciated to an offer to open a coffee plantation in Papua Province from the National Land Council by preparing a report collaborated with relevant ministries on the current potential commodities.

Meanwhile, the Assistant for General Affairs of Papua Province Elysa Auri added that Papua Provincial Government had compiled a master plan and road map of sustainable land based for the green economy development in order to accommodate the economic growth targets. (*)

Reporter: Alexander Loen

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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They stole Merbau timber before oil palm plantations investment (part 2)

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Confiscated Merbau timber auctioned by Papua Province Forestry Office – Dok. Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – Another impact of oil palm plantations has caused the river became shallow and polluted; trees and plants hardly grow anymore.

“Papuan people eat sago, tubers, or bananas, we do not eat palm oil,” said Mgr John Philip Saklil Pr as quoted by Antara news agency.

Bishop Saklil believes there are many examples of failure of oil palm plantations such as in Kalimantan and Keerom, Papua Province. It only caused local residents lost their land for sago and tubers to grow.

“The closest example is in Keerom. Is it now the Keerom locals have become rich with oil palms? So please do not force the Papuan people to turn their livelihood to plant things that are not customary,” Bishop Saklil said.

Researchers from University of Riau T. Ariful Amri explained the negative impacts of oil palm plantation activities especially on water. Oil palm is nutrients greed monoculture and absorbs at least 12 liters water into its tree trunk a day.

Read They stole Merbau timber before oil palm plantations investment (part 1)

The growth of oil palm is also depend and should be stimulated by various kinds of fertilizer substances like pesticides and other chemicals.

New migrant pests also appear very fierce because this new pest species will seek new habitat due to harsh competition with other fauna. This is due to the limited land and types of plants caused by monoculture cultivation.

Henderite Ohee, researcher and lecturer of FMIPA UNCEN in his article entitled Human Threats to Biodiversity in Papua said destruction of habitat becomes a real threat to sustainability of ecology and biodiversity in Papua. This is also caused by human activities.

According to Law No. 32 of 2009 Article 1, paragraph 17 on the management and protection of environment the damage is a direct and/or indirect change to the physical, chemical and/or biological nature of environment that exceeds the standard criteria of environmental damage.

Damage to ecosystems in Indonesia has occurred in various places and various types of ecosystems. Damage in agricultural or plantation ecosystems is one of them. Wildlife extinction has been direct impact on the management of oil palm plantations on forest land.

Palm oil ‘invasion’ to Papua and Merbau timber

Palm oil plantation companies entered Papua in 1980s, especially large state-owned plantations (BUMN-PTP2) which later changed their name into PTPPN II. This state-owned company began to reach Sorong, Manokwari and Jayapura, along with the transmigration program.

“From 1990s until now, private plantations began to flood the land of Papua like mushrooms grow in the rainy season. Because the potential lands for plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan have been discharged by conglomerates nationwide and world class,” said Simon Rumaropen former employee of PTPN Palm Oil in Arso in a written statement received by Jubi.

Furthermore, Rumaropen said potential oil palm investors are targeting the land of Papua as a potential field to invest.

“They race to enter Papua since no land left in Sumatra and Kalimantan. They come to Papua with various background interests,” he said, quoting the word of God in Matthew’s gospel is the thief will come to steal, kill and destroy.

Rumaropen suspects that the reason behind many new companies eager to invest in oil palm sector in Papua is Merbau wood.

“If the company has obtained a location permit and a plantation business permit but has not been operating for more than three years, and the company has no plantations in other areas, it can be assumed that the company has become wood mafia, “he said in a written statement.

Responding to the statement of the Coalition for Palm Oil Victims in Papua related to oil palm industries profit potential, Rumaropen asserted that they are actually very profitable, both for large companies and local communities/farmers.

Rumaropen warned that the granting of permits to companies that come to Papua, with work program and pledge of promises, might be “work and land mafia”.

“The palm oil investors come to Papua with various aims, some will actually open large plantations and some are just passing through,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ais Rumbekwan, environmental activists and environmentalists from the Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) – Papua and West Papua said that on the ground the case of land grabbing for oil palm plantations without reasonable compensation to indigenous people become very common case.

Palm oil was imported to Indonesia by the Dutch East Indies government in 1848. Some of the seeds were planted in Bogor Botanical Gardens, while the remaining seeds were planted on the side of the road as ornamental plants in Deli, North Sumatra in the 1870s.(tabloidjubi.com)

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