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Four new palm oil permits issued across Papua region

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High-density forest cover which dominates the four new palm oil concessions whose permits were issued in Papua and West Papua by Google Earth images (2010-2014) – foresthints.news

Jakarta, Jubi/foresthints.news – Indonesian authorities have issued four new permits for palm oil expansion in the provinces of Papua and West Papua covering an area equivalent to more than 60,000 soccer fields – almost the size of Singapore – major parts of which are comprised of forest with high-density forest cover.

The issuance of these four new palm oil permits by the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) took place from late July to late November 2017, more than a year after President Joko Widodo announced a moratorium on palm oil expansion in mid-April 2016.

The technical process involved in the issuing of the permits was performed by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry.

“These four new palm oil permits obtained approval in principle from the previous government administration in 2013-2014. The boundary arrangements for these ones are completed. This is an unavoidable legal process needed to proceed in a bureaucratic system in coordination with BKPM.”

Professor Sigit Hardwinarto, the Ministry’s new Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Planning, who took up his post in early November last year, explained this in a conversation with foresthints.news (Jan 31) at the ministry building.

He went on to say that, in the event that a legal basis underpinning the palm oil expansion moratorium is issued, concessions which consist of good forest cover – whether from new palm oil permits or old ones – would remain objects for evaluation.

Below are some examples taken from Google Earth images (2010-2014) of the high-density forest cover which dominates the four new palm oil concessions whose permits were issued in Papua and West Papua.

Meanwhile, time-series USGS Landsat 8 and ESA Sentinel-2 images confirm that the new palm oil concessions are still mostly made up of intact forests with their predominating high-density forest cover yet to change.

One of the four new palm oil permits in the Papua region is for a company under the Ganda group, one of the key suppliers to Wilmar International. In fact, part of this new concession has already been developed. As it turns out, another company under this group is also developing new palm oil plantations in Papua by clearing HCS forests.

Most permits on hold

It is worth noting, Professor Sigit continued, that – despite the issuing of these four new permits – as of now there are about 1.5 million hectares for which the processing of new permits – most notably for palm oil concessions – remains on hold by the ministry in the wake of the President’s announcement of the moratorium on palm oil expansion.

“Delaying almost all new permits is one of our strategies for controlling deforestation, while we are waiting for a legal basis supporting the moratorium on palm expansion,” the director general pointed out.

Three of the four new palm oil permits issued in the area are located in West Papua province and the majority of these concessions are composed of high carbon stock (HCS) forests. The following Google Earth images (2010-2014) depict a representation of the present forest cover situation in these three new concessions.

The director general underlined that a legal basis for the palm oil expansion moratorium is also very necessary to assess the extent to which palm oil companies have met their obligation to allocate 20% of their concessions to local communities.

“Current evaluations have shown that the fulfilment of this requirement is very low. This is one of the main concerns that will be seriously addressed,” he cautioned.

The clearing of these intact Papuan forests can only be prevented with the release of a legal basis for implementing the moratorium on palm oil expansion.

In addition, considering the presence of peat ecosystems, including peat protection zones, in parts of the newly-granted concessions, Indonesia’s new peat regulations could also prevent the clearing of these peat ecosystems for new palm oil expansion.(*)

Environment

The Kamwolker River drying up

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Kamwolker River of Perumnas III Waena. – Jubi / Agus Pabika

Jayapura, Jubi – Water debit of the Kampwolker River, one of the largest water reservoirs for Waena and Entrop areas of Jayapura city, has started to decline.

A geography lecturer at the University of Cenderawasih Eka Kristina Yeimo said the lack of government control on natural reserved areas driven the drought of springs. “If this issue has not immediately addressed, I am afraid the clean water crisis will happen in the next few years. The government must take a firm action to maintain the water resources, especially some springs in the city of Jayapura,” Yeimo told Jubi on Friday (22/6/2018).

She said that several years ago, water is not a problem. However, it changes. The water springs around Perumnas III and Kamwolker began to dry as a consequence of land clearing. “People build houses at the river bank until the mountain foot, which cut down all the trees around it,” she said.

Therefore, she continued, the government needs to establish a clear regulation and legal basis to protect the water resource area by controlling the development around the springs. On the other hand, it is also necessary for the community to play an active role to maintain the water resources and forest. (*)

 

Reporter: Agus Pabika

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Arts & Culture

Hungarian student attracted to traditional Papuan food

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Regina Laurents while processing sago with Papuan women from Kwadeware, Sentani. – Jubi/Engel Wally

Jayapura, Jubi – Papua is always an attractive place for international tourists to visit every year, and a Hungarian student Regina Laurents, who said coming to Papua because interested in studying the Papuan culture including its culinary method such as how to process sago traditionally, is just an example of it.

“I observe the traditional sago processing method is very good. I had eaten sago in Sulawesi once but never knew how to prepare it. I am happy that I can see its process here directly,” said Regina while attending the Sago Festival II in Kwadeware, Jayapura District on Thursday (21/06/2018).

Laurents is a culinary student who is undergoing an exchange program in Indonesia. For two years, she has been in various Indonesia regions, in particular, Papua to learn the traditional food processing method. Therefore, she felt lucky attending the Sago Festival. “I am pleased that I can learn a lot here, and I will certainly tell my friends about Papua.”

Moreover, She hopes this festival would continue to promote the Papuan traditional culinary as well as to attract more international tourists to come.

Sago Festival II was held in Kwadeware Village of Waibhu Sub-district, Jayapura District on Thursday (21/06/2018). Despite a variety of processed and traditional foods made from sago exhibited at the festival, visitors can also observe how to process raw sago before it becomes a delicious food. (*)

 

Reporter: Engel Wally

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Analysis

Activists fear Indian proposal for coal reserves in Indonesian-ruled Papua

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Forest clearance and plantation development in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (PT MJR) palm oil concession in Papua. The region is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest, but is facing intense pressure due to the logging, palm oil and mining industries. Image: Ulet Infansasti/Greenpeace

By Febriana Firdaus in Jakarta

As it seeks to diversify its sources of fuel, India is looking to get in on the ground floor of coal mining in previously unexploited deposits in Indonesian-ruled Papua.

In exchange for technical support and financing for geological surveys, officials say India is pushing for special privileges, including no-bid contracts on any resulting concessions a prospect that could run foul of Indonesia’s anti-corruption laws.

The details of an Indian mining project in Papua are still being negotiated, but Indonesia’s energy ministry welcomes the prospect as part of a greater drive to explore energy resources in the country’s easternmost provinces.

In future, the ministry hopes mining for coking coal will support the domestic steel industry, while also bringing economic benefits to locals.

Rights activists, however, fear the launch of a new mining industry could deepen tensions in a region where existing extractive projects have damaged the environment and inflamed a long-running armed conflict.

Indonesia’s new coal frontier

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jakarta last month, joint efforts to extract and process Indonesia’s fossil fuels, including coal, were on the agenda.

India’s interest in investing in a new coking coal mining concession in Papua can be traced to 2017, when officials from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR), both Indian government institutes, met with Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jakarta.

The bilateral plan was announced by then-ministry spokesman Sujatmiko after the first India Indonesia Energy Forum held in Jakarta in April 2017. “The focus is on new territories in Papua,” he said.

To follow up, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources sent a team to India in early May. The current energy ministry spokesman, Agung Pribadi, who was part of the delegation, told Mongabay that officials from state-owned energy giant Pertamina, major coal miner PT Adaro Energy, and state-owned electricity firm PLN also joined the meeting.

The Indonesian team presented research outlining the potential for mining high-caloric content coal in West Papua province, and lower-caloric coal in Papua province.

According to the team’s report, only 9.3 million tons of reserves have so far been identified. By contrast, Indonesia as a whole expects to export 371 million tons of coal this year. However, the true extent of coal deposits could be larger, said Rita Susilawati, who prepared the report presented during the meeting and is head of coal at the ministry’s Mineral, Coal and Geothermal Resources Centre. “Some areas in Papua are hard to reach due to the lack of infrastructure. We were unable to continue the research,” she explained.

During the visit, Indian and Indonesian officials discussed conducting a geological survey in Papua, Agung said. India would finance the survey using its national budget. With Indonesian President Joko Widodo prioritising infrastructure investment, the energy ministry has few resources to conduct such surveys.

Expected privileges

Indonesia also anticipates benefiting and learning from India’s experience in processing coking coal.

In exchange, India expected privileges from the Indonesian government, including the right to secure the project without a bidding process, Agung said.

Indonesia denied the request, and the talks were put on hold. Approving it would have been too risky, Agung said, since the bidding process is regulated in Indonesia. “We recommend they follow the bidding process or cooperate with a state-owned enterprise,” Agung said.

India’s ministry of coal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Energy and mining law expert Bisman Bakhtiar said there was still a chance India could get the rights to develop any resulting coal concessions without having to go through an open bidding process. “It can proceed under the G-to-G (government-to-government) scheme by signing a bilateral agreement,” he said.

This form of agreement would supersede the ministerial regulations requiring competitive bidding, Bisman explained, although he said any such agreements should emphasise that any projects must be carried out according to local laws.

There is precedent in Indonesia for G-to-G schemes bypassing the open bidding process, Bisman said. For example, multiple projects have been carried out on the basis of cooperation agreements with the World Bank and Australia. In another instance, Indonesian media mogul Surya Paloh imported crude oil from Angola via a bilateral cooperation agreement with Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol.

Draft law

A draft law currently being discussed in the House of Representatives could also smooth the path for India. It says that if there is agreement between Indonesia and a foreign government to conduct geological studies, the country involved will get priority for the contract.

However, this would still require the country to meet market prices. “We called it ‘right to match.’ If there are other parties who offer lower prices, then they should follow that price,” Bisman said.

Another option would be for India to appoint one of its local companies to work with Indonesian private sector giant Adaro or state-owned coal miner PT Bukit Asam. Such a deal could be conducted as a business-to-business (B-to-B) agreement, and would be legal according to Indonesia’s Energy Law.

Or, Indonesia could assign a state-owned firm like Bukit Asam to work with India based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by both countries.

“But all these options have a potential risk,” Agung said. “They can be categorised as collusion by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).” He said a conventional bidding process should be prioritised.

Bisman said India needed to consider other risks, such as the social and political situation in Papua. The region is home to an armed pro-independence movement and has faced decades of conflict around the world’s largest and most profitable gold and copper mine, Grasberg, owned by US-based Freeport McMoRan.

‘Land grab’

Despite the presence of the mine, Papua remains Indonesia’s poorest province, with some of the worst literacy and infant mortality rates in Asia. Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), a state-funded body, has characterised Freeport’s concession as a “land grab,” for which the original stewards of the land, the Amungme and Kamoro indigenous people, were never properly consulted or compensated.

The Indonesian energy ministry’s own research says that any project must take into account the impact on Papua’s indigenous peoples, and must factor in specific local concepts of land ownership, leadership and livelihood.

Franky Samperante, executive director of rights advocacy group Yayasan Pusaka, said he was worried about the plan. “It is way too risky,” he said, pointing to the social and environmental fallout of the Grasberg mine.

“There should be communication between the mining company and indigenous Papuans,” he said, warning Jakarta to carefully calculate the social, environmental and national security impacts.

Local indigenous people need to be meaningfully involved in the decision-making process, he said, especially since the mining would occur in and near forests where indigenous people live and gather and hunt their food. (*)

 

Source: asiapacificreport.nz

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