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.
The way Papuansphoto Community calls to protect Cycloop
Jayapura, Jubi – Papuan youth from Papuansphoto Community held an environmental action to protect the buffer zone of the Cycloop mountains where precisely located at the rectorate of the University of Cenderawasih.
Around 50 participants joined in the event held on Saturday (8/2/2020) in Waena, Heram Sub-district, Jayapura City. They planted trees and took photos of the natural surroundings.
The Papuansphoto General Chairman Whens Tebay told Jubi on Sunday (9/2/2020) that this action was to demonstrate their concern for the Cycloop area.
“Our concept of photography is to save the forest and humans. So, it was two activities in one event. We planted 50 various tree seedlings,” said Tebay.
The various tree seedlings which brought from the Papua Provincial Forestry Office are the banyan, pine, acacia and weki.
“This is the first event in 2020. There would be more events such as training or workshop on photography to be held in Jayapura,” he said.
Furthermore, Tebay who obtained his bachelor degree from the International Relations of Science and Technology University of Jayapura (USTJ) warned the city and suburb residents of Jayapura to protect their environment, especially Cycloop Mountains as a water source for dwellers living in both areas.
Earlier, Tebay said Papuansphoto had conducted a similar project titled “Save Water, Forest and the Land” on 1 February 2019. At that time, the community worked with native Papuans and Elenggen Art studio.
In the meantime, Gamel from Rumah Bakau Community thinks the concept of event held by Papuansphoto was creatively interesting because they were not only planting trees but turning such activity to be the artwork of photography.
According to him, for those who do not really like reading, have little interest in literacy, the photography at least can bring the actual pictures contained environmental messages.
“While our community has started the environmental action since 1 January 2020 by collecting rubbish leftover from the New Year’s Eve and run some ‘goes-to-school’ events related to environmental issues. The motivation of young people must always be maintained and never stop to try,” he said.
Jayapura City is located in the Cycloop mountainous area and often hit by floods and landslides during the rainy season. It is also said the water flow rate in the Cycloop buffer zone continuously declined.
While, on the other hand, waste and rubbish scatter everywhere and deforestation by irresponsible people has been continuously happening. As a result, the water surface at Kampwolker River, for example, has gradually dropped.
Meanwhile, a Waena resident Yustinus said locals recently are struggling to get water due lacking water supplies from Water Service Company (PDAM).
In Perumnas 2 (Waena), PDAM water supplies not operated for three days. Residents must buy some water at the nearest water depot for daily consumption, such as for washing and cooking.
“In the past, water from PDAM was available for 24 hours. Now, it changes drastically,” he said. Therefore, he asks everyone to protect the Cycloop area as the water source area. (*)
Reporter: Timoteus Marten
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Raja Ampat Government accused to violate tenure rights over two years of land occupation
Sentani, Jubi – The landowner of 3 hectares of the customary land asks the local government of Raja Ampat to return the land and pay the rent for two-years occupation.
The local government was permitted to use the land for two years, from 2004 to 2006, based on the mutual agreement. However, when the landowner asked the local government to return it and pay the rent, it found out the land was registered as an asset of the local government since 2007.
Following the land dispute, the customary people then brought the case to court. Here the statement declared by their legal counsel Haris Azhar from Lokataru, the Law and Human Rights Office to Jubi via WhatsApp on Tuesday (4/2/2020).
“The Local Government of Raja Ampat deprived the tenure land rights of indigenous Raja Ampat arbitrary. Therefore, Lokataru, the Law and Human Rights Office, as their legal counsel, condemns the land occupation by the local government over the tenure land owned by Hj. Salim family. The land is located in Waisai, Raja Ampat Regency. We found some facts showing the practice of deprivation over this land,” said Haris Azhar.
First, the regional government of Raja Ampat has occupied the land borrowed from the customary landowner for more than two years. It violated the two years agreement, namely from 2004 to 2006. The local government never returned the land to the customary landowner until today.
Second, the Raja Ampat government deprived the land by proposing the Land-use certificate to the National Land Agency (BPN) of Raja Ampat which issued in 2007 and 2008.
“The local government of Raja Ampat have done it secretly without any permission and consent from the customary landowner on the transfer of the customary tenure land. The government’s action is violating the Government’s Regulation No. 24 of 1997 on the Land Registration,” he explained.
Third, the Raja Ampat government has vowed to provide compensation on the land in the hearing on the Regional Budget Revision of Raja Ampat on 20 September 2018. The compensation has been budgeting in the revision 2018. However, the Government of Raja Ampat has never paid compensation to the customary landowner.
Therefore, the government has broken its promise or conduct a fraud towards the customary landowner.
Four, the customary landowner has taken some persuasive actions and demonstrated their goodwill by visiting the government’s office and asking the Raja Ampat Regent for a dialogue on this issue. However, the local government was not willing to show their goodwill such as not giving any confirmation or explanation on the reason why they did not pay any compensation over the land.
“Based on these mentioned facts, we urged the Government of Raja Ampat, in this case, represented by the Raja Ampat Regent, to respect the law and pay attention to the rights of the customary people whose land deprived arbitrarily by the local government. Secondly, the local government of Raja Ampat, in this case, represented by the regent, to immediately solve the dispute by installing the agreed payments to Hj. Salim’s family as approved in the Regional Budget Revision Meeting of Raja Ampat in 2018,” said Azhar.
Meanwhile, Musa, a member of Hj. Salim’s family said as the customary landowner, he hopes the local government of Raja Ampat shows its goodwill to solve this issue as possible as it could.
“In the mutual agreement, the government only borrowed our land. But now they (the local government) had claimed to have a certificate on the land which issued since 2007,” said Musa by phone in Sentani, Thursday (6/2/2020). (*)
Reporter: Engelbert Wally
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Raja Ampat’s government says to expel tourist ships for destroying coral reefs
Waisai, Jubi – The Government of Raja Ampat Regency would drive out tourist ships for not complying local shipping regulations. The Regional Secretary Yusuf Salim affirmed the government’s policy is to address the environmental effects caused by tourist boats that often hit and damage coral reefs.
“This policy is to protect the natural reserve of Raja Ampat. Many operating boats do not pay attention to the rules that destroy the coral reefs,” said Yusuf in a meeting with tourism administrators on Thursday (09/01/2020).
He emphasised that the local government would not tolerate those who cause environmental destruction. Their licence would immediately revoke and no longer allowed to operate in Raja Ampat.
“All tourist ships must obey the rule if they want to continue operating in Raja Ampat. Such particular cruise ships must report their arrival to the regional government and follow relevant local regulations,” said Yusuf in a meeting chaired by Regent Abdul Faris Umlati.
To prevent coral reefs from damage and destruction, managers of tourist ships required to involve certified local guides. If not, they are not allowed to enter and operate in Raja Ampat.
“It is for ensuring the convenience (and safety) during the tour. The coral reefs’ damages also can be avoided (prevented),” said the Head of Raja Ampat Tourism Office Yusdi Lamatenggo on the same occasion.
Further, Yusdi hopes that tourism operators and local people would report to the Tourism Office if they find any tourism services to not involving certified local guides. His office is ready for taking action on those who violate the rules.
Earlier, Lamima Surabaya, an Indonesian-flagged cruise ship, reportedly hit a coral reef surround Misool Island of Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua Province. Meanwhile, several Indonesian cruise ships carrying foreign tourists travelling in Misool Island also suspected of not paying tolls to the regional tourism office for entering local tourist destinations.
The Sub-district chief of Misool Selatan Samsul Rumasukun when contacted from Sorong on Tuesday (7/1/2020) confirmed that Lamima Surabaya was transporting foreign tourists before ran aground on the coral reefs surround Banos and Lenmakana waters in Misool Island on 3 January 2020. But the case was not widely known to the public.
He said the ship had continued its tour, but the incident already tackled by the Raja Ampat Police.
Meanwhile, Adrianus Kaiba, the Head of the Regional Public Service Agency for the Tourism Destination of Regional Tourism Office, separately said that every tourist visit Raja Ampat oblige to pay entrance fees in tourist destinations.
According to him, Lamima Surabaya cruise ship, which reportedly ran aground in the tourist destinations between the islands of Banos and Lemakana Misool, has so far not paid entrance fees to the regional tourism office.
At the end of December 2019, the Provincial Government of West Papua appealed for yachts entering its sea territories to involve local tour guides. This appeal issued following the incident of the cruise ship Aqua Blu landed on the coral reefs of Wayag Island.
The Head of Provincial Tourism and Culture Yusak Wabia in Manokwari on Monday (30/12/2019) stated the importance of using local guide services to avoid accidents such as crashing into coral reefs.
He said the local guides were more aware of the geographical condition of their territory, so it would prevent accidents. “Only local people know for certain the geographical conditions and the weather of their sea. They also maintain the coral reefs which are the source of their livelihood,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Indonesian Tour Guide Association (HPI) in Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua Province, Ranny Iriani Tumundo, regretted the incident of Aqua Blu cruise ship crashing on the coral reefs of Wayag Island.
She conveyed that according to the regulations, each cruise ship sailing around the sea of Raja Ampat oblige to notify the local government and meet the administrative requirement before visiting tourist destinations. Also, they require to pay retribution fee for entrance to the local government through the Office of Investment and Integrated Business Services.
“If a cruise ship has done it, then it is legal to travel in Raja Ampat. Also, the cruise ships must obey the shipping lane and involve local people as tour guides to avoid unexpected incidents happen, such as crashing into a coral reef,” she said. (*)
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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