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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

The story of illegal logging from the forests of Papua

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Illegal timbers – an illustration. -Tempo.co

Jayapura, Jubi – Tempo journalist Avit Hidayat shared his experience in doing an investigation about the circulation of illegal timbers from Papua’s forest as a resource person for the discussion about “ Papua’s Forest and Logging Disputes”.

Auriga Nusantara, Eyes on the Forest, Tempo Institute, Free Press Unlimited, and Tempo Media Grup held this forum in Jakarta, Monday, 28 January 2019 and attended by other resource persons, such as Laode M. Syarif (KPK commissionaire), Rasio Ridho Sani (Gakkum-KLHK), Hilman Nugroho (PHPL-KLHK) Muhamad Kosar (JPIK), Timotius Murib (Majelis Rakyat Papua) and Papuan stakeholders from indigenous peoples, Papuan Parliament and Papua Provincial Forestry Office.

In the discussion, Avit said it is essential for the public to know about the situation in Papua. “The tropical forests in Papua are the last (forests) in Indonesia, while the Merbau wood which is the Papuan endemic trees have been becoming the target of the international market,” he said. 

Furthermore, Avid said he conducted the investigation in many different places and interviewed many resource persons; and in Papua, the Tempo team went further to the logging sites. There, they witnessed how the workers who come from other regions carried out the illegal logging activity. They also met transporters, woodmasters, drivers, and logging company staffs.

“And the most important thing is we met the supplier. The supplier is a mediator of the logging companies who play a role to bargain with ‘ondo’—the tribal chief–for compensation. For example, if in a village there are common indigenous lands, the supplier comes to measuring the areas, and give payment to indigenous peoples.”

In their investigation, the Tempo team also met the owners of a logging company who later admitted about the illegal logging activity.  However, they called it the unregistered community logging.

Meanwhile, in Aroba Sub-district of Teluk Bintuni, Papua Barat, the team went to the forest areas of the company who received the Business License for the Utilization of Natural Forest and Timber Product (IUPHHK-HA) that formerly known as a Forest Concession Permit (HPH). There, the team found the manipulation of a wood barcode. For instance, the barcode for ketapang wood is used for Merbau wood.

Moreover, the team also investigated the primary industry in Papua, Surabaya, Lumajang, Gresik by tracing the distribution of logs. Here, they found another finding, namely the fake transport data and officials’ involvement, whereas the illegal retribution practice has also become their another concern.

In their journey from Sarmi to Jayapura Municipality, the team discovered 25 retribution posts that consist of the indigenous institution, police (military) and Forestry Office. “This is the fact that we found, but I couldn’t capture it because it was too risky. We even witness a military truck used to transport the logs.”

Furthermore, the Tempo team met the export logging companies and found those companies able to export up to 6,000-meter cubic annually, while based on the Forest Product Information Management System (SIPUH), they only allowed to export around 100-meter cubic.

“In Surabaya, we went to a barge and talked with an officer. He said not all logs are given barcode. A few logging companies intentionally inserted non-barcode logs or illegal logs in there. They are mostly the HPH holders, and they even put the timbers between the logs.”

However, all these findings did not include in the audit industry report registered in the Timber Legality and Verification System Legality and Verification System (SVLK) which consist of the Assessment Agency for Sustainable Forest Production Management (LP-PHPL) and Timber Verification Agency (LV-LK). Both agencies are responsible for assessing the sustainable forest product management and verify the legality aspect of timber based on the system and standards set by the government.

“We also got the information about the involvement of LV-LK and LP-PHPL, which means they play around with such companies and culprits from the forestry office. I think the KPK has identified these cases.”

In the meantime, a resource person from the National Accreditation Committee (KAN) acknowledged that there were bribery practices in the LV-LK. The audit report had often finished before the field assessment.

Meanwhile, the participants appreciated the findings of Tempo’s investigation. They expected the government to find a solution immediately, whether it’s a regulation or supervision and law enforcement.

On the other hand, a representative of LV-LK objected this report regarding the bribery practices in his institution. But Avit said until now none of the resource persons withdrew their statements and opposed the result of the team’s investigation.

Meanwhile, Agung Wijaya, Avit’s editor for this covered story, said he was worried about Avit’s safety during the investigation. But finally, this report was completed and published.

He further said Tempo had traced the case of illegal logging since 2017. Thus, publishing the investigation report becomes a moral burden for Tempo. Therefore Tempo will continue to monitor this issue and welcome other stakeholders who attended this forum for further discussion.

Through this coverage, Tempo attempted to look the case thoroughly even though it might not give a solution because the solution is actually in the hand of all of you (who come to this forum).” (*)

 

Reporter: Timoteus Marten

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Environment

The elected president urged paying attention to the environmental issue

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Illustration. -Pixabay.com

Jayapura, Jubi – The Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) Papua urged the elected president for 2019-2024 to include the environmental issue in his main agenda to provide access to environmental management for indigenous Papuans as applied in the constitution.

Indonesia will run the presidential and legislative elections simultaneously in April 2019. Both presidential candidates demanded to notice the environmental issue in their programs.

Moreover, the elected president and vice president are also expected to give full authority to Papua Provincial Government in the implementation of Special Autonomy Law without being intervened by national policies. Therefore, indigenous Papuans would have access to natural resources management.

As reported in kpu.go.id, both presidential candidates Joko Widodo-Maaruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Salahuddin Uno mentioned about the environmental issue in their points of the campaign. Widodo-Amin talk about the sustainable environment, while Subianto-Uno put the environment-based national development program for the people of Indonesia through politics and economy. On 17 January 2019, both candidates attended the presidential debate held by KPU on the issues of corruption, law and human rights, and terrorism.

In addition to the presidential candidates, the legislative candidates are also expected to understand the environmental issue comprehensively, not merely talk about it. Hence, WALHI asked them to be open and wise in addressing this issue, particularly related to human security.

Meanwhile, as an environmentally concerned civil organisation, WALHI invites young people to use their right to vote the legislative candidates who care about the environmental issue and still keep their eyes on the elected ones.

“Because the environment is the most crucial issue that must be considered and led by legislators,” said Aeshs Rumbekwan of WALHI Papua in a press release received by Jubi in Jayapura on Thursday, 17 January 2019.

WALHI declared that currently, the environmental governance in Indonesia is getting worse. If the environmental management is in accordance to the Law No. 32 of 2003 on the Protection and Management of Environment, there should be no pollution including from hazardous and poisonous materials, and land clearing by cutting and burning the forest.

Poor environmental management, according to WALHI, occurred because the State regards the natural wealth as a commodity. Therefore, it does not acknowledge the local wisdom in managing natural resources. Instead, it hands over the natural resources management to corporations.

Based on WALHI’s records in 2017, there were 302 environmental cases, 163 persons have criminalised and 13 provinces involved as the crime scenes. Meanwhile, the indigenous landowners also harmed by this mismanagement. As a result, they lost their communal land and exploited as workers.

In the same occasion, WALHI also urged Papua Provincial Government to pay more attention to the environment, implement the Special Autonomy Law and open access for implementing the national policies.

Meanwhile, the activist of Port Numbay Green Forum (FPPNG) Gamel Abdel Nasser assessed that the environmental issue, particularly in Jayapura, Papua, was addressed by certain groups. For a while, environmental problems have not become a common issue for all stakeholders. Both government and NGOs work independently. Though some NGOs have collaborated with the government to address this issue, their collaboration so far has not fully raised awareness among people.

“There is no massive awareness to understand the importance of balanced ecosystem,” said Gamel.

According to him, if one ecosystem disrupted, it will affect other ecosystems. Therefore, it needs to handle this holistically. Furthermore, he gave an example of Jayapura City which often hit by floods and garbage. Efforts to make people aware, he continued, must be supported by the lowest level of government administrations.

Furthermore, he said both presidential candidates Jokowi and Prabowo need to reminded from the start that Papua is the last biodiversity fortress on Earth.

Papua’s forests must be protected. One of the preventions is to prohibit palm oil plantations in Papua. It’s just enough for Kalimantan and Sumatra became victims of palm oil plantations, not Papua,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Government to solve environmental crimes and human rights violations

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Jayapura, Jubi – Environmental activists and NGOs such as Yayasan Pusaka, SOS Tanah Papua, KPKC GKI Tanah Papua and PAHAM urged the central government to immediately solving the human rights violations and environmental crimes occurred in Papua.

This call is related to the 75th World Human Rights Day on 10 December 2018 that concern over violations and crimes against humanity and the environment.

A human right defender Yohanis Mambrasar said he received a report said that many civilians in Nduga Regency forced to take refuge and leave their villages. There is no guarantee of security and food for them.

“They are worried and suppressed by the security forces that involved in the evacuation of shooting victims. We also heard that a church activist was shot and died in Nduga,” said Mambrasar.

Meanwhile, the Rev Matheus Adadikam, the Director of ELSHAM (Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy) Papua, in a press release to Jubi said President Joko Widodo had given less priority to human rights enforcement in Indonesia, particularly in Papua, even though he promised to solve a number of past human right violations in Papua including the incidents in Abepura, Wamena and Wasior.

The development pattern and security approach in handling many problems in Papua considered ineffective, because people have traumatized since 1 May 1969. Therefore, the government and politic elites must be wise in responding the shooting incident in Nduga Regency. People had traumatised by Mampenduma Military Operation of 1986.

“We asked the Military and Police to prioritise professionalism and uphold the applied laws and human values according to the UN Human Rights Convention.

We also asked the armed group to be fully responsible for this incident. Do not involve the civilians because it would take more casualties.

 

Environmental crimes

Pressure on the environment as a source of life for indigenous Papuans also occurs in several regions through land clearing and deforestation for plantation, mining and logging activities on a large scale which involving the capital owners, transnational companies and state officials.

“Our sacred and sago forests in Muting and Bupul, Merauke Regency, have been evicted and demolished by those private companies without consultation and agreement. They did it quickly and gave improper compensation for the lands and our loss,” said Bonefacius Basikbasik Kamijae, the Chief of Kamijae clan.

Both central and regional governments have ignored and failed to protect the rights of the community started from the issuing of business permit and license for land and forest use. Furthermore, the government also considered for not being consistent regarding policy and regulation on the protection of forests and peatlands.

Aish Rumbekwan from WALHI Papua described that land conversion and large-scale deforestation from oil palm plantations, commercial plantations, mining and logging activities have triggered the climate change and raised the greenhouse emissions.

Therefore, the government should take immediate actions to reduce the earth temperature to below 1.5 degrees to ensure the safety of the people and their living space.

“We asked both regional and central governments to immediately implement a program to evaluate, review and revoke the business permits of forests and lands use that violate and contradict the regulations and customary laws,” said Rumbekwan.

Maratha Resolution

Environmental organisations in Papua have just completed their meeting in the Forum of Policy Dialogue and the Conference of Papua Customary Community held on 7 – 8 December in Susteran Maranatha, Jayapura City.

The meeting has set a resolution to address human rights violations and environmental crimes in Papua.

The resolution urged the government to thoroughly solving the human rights violations and humanitarian issues in Papua through a transparent legal process and provide justice to the victims and their families.

The government must take immediate action to restore and rehabilitate the rights of victims and their families.

The government must immediately recognize, protect and respect the existence of indigenous Papuans and the rights of indigenous people, the right towards lands and forests, the right of freedom of expression, the right of customary institution and the right of freedom of organisation, the right of development, the rights of customary laws and customary court.

The recognition, respect and protection of rights are effective methods to prevent human rights violations, environmental crimes and deforestation.

Meanwhile, Franky Samperante from Yayasan Papua said that the rights of indigenous Papuans to determine the development and take a decision on the land use by the outsiders have included in the Papuan Autonomy Law and derivative regulations.

However, the government has not fully acknowledged, protect and respect it.  “The government takes the interest of capital owners on behalf of the economic development as a priority. It also failed to monitor and conduct law enforcement towards the company who violate and commit environmental crimes and commit violence against the community,” said Samperante. (*)

Reporter: David Sobolim

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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