Deforestation is yet to be a main environmental concern in West Papua. Its deforestation rate is among the lowest in Indonesia. However, that does not mean the situation will remain like that forever. There should be a conscious effort to combat this environmental threat in the region.
Forest Loss and the Reasons
In many areas around the globe, forest loss is not something uncommon. This province also suffered losses in the past years. Data from 2001 to 2018 in Papua showed that the Indonesian area experienced 713,766 hectare loss of forest. That number equals 2% of the old-growth forest.
Although this number is among the lowest in the entire Indonesia, it is still necessary to understand the cause of this loss to make better regulations to control it. Here are six major reasons for forest loss in the region.
The province, as a special autonomy area, receives a special fund from the government. This fund is used to accelerate infrastructure development so that wealth can be distributed better among people. However, this development effort does take a portion of the forest. It was noted that until 2018, the forest loss for this development reached 37,000 hectare.
Oil palm and pulpwood companies
Before the green pact was implemented in West Papua, many oil palm and palmwood companies were building their businesses in this province. Granted, the companies help the local economy grow quicker. However, there is also a significant loss of forest due to these companies. By 2018, the loss reached 47,608 hectare.
Activities of logging in the province are not as severe as in other regions. Generally, the logging activity is very selective and thus does not create much damage to the environment. Nonetheless, there is still old-growth forest loss associated with these activities. By 2018, the forest loss reached 56,700 hectare.
As an area that experiences dry seasons from time to time, the province is not a stranger to forest fires. Based on data from 2001-2018, the forest fires had caused 30,952 hectare of loss. Fortunately this loss is oftentimes temporary. This means that the government must work quickly to recover the loss.
Surface water movement
There is another environmental factor that also causes forest loss, namely the surface water movement. This movement occurs when the rivers around the region experience overflow. From 2001 to 2018, the loss of forest due to this environmental condition reached 14,900 hectare.
Mining is a pivotal economic activity in the region. Its income mainly relies on mining activities. The region has a good reserve of natural gas, copper, and gold. Unfortunately, mining companies have to take a portion of the forest for their works. West Papua suffered 857 hectare loss in 2018. This number has likely gone up in recent years.
Forest Sustainability in the Province
A few years ago, the province pledged to lead its development in the sustainability direction. It includes protecting the precious forest part of the area. In the last two decades the government has done a good job of keeping the forest loss at a minimum level. Unfortunately, with how fast growing the province is, changes may occur.
In order to make sure that the forest loss in the region remains at low level, there should be combined efforts from many parties. Here are parties that need to heed this precarious situation to their maximum abilities:
Local and central government bodies are responsible for creating regulations that will maintain the Papua forest. The regulation must adhere to the green practice. For now, the government has pledged to maintain 70% of its land untouched and to be designed as a conservation area. Tighter supervision is a big homework assignment, though.
There are many businesses opening in West Papua. These businesses are important for the economic development of this province. However, businesses must adhere to ethical practices that do not harm the native forest. They also need to be transparent about the land use.
Although many people do not know it, nonprofit organizations have been making their causes for years in this region. Some of them focus on environmental issues. As organizations unrelated to the government, nonprofits can help people and the government to supervise the environmental practices.
Local people must be given a chance to voice out their opinions about their land. They need to be able to report any foul practice that happens in their ancestor land. However, it is understood that to do this, locals must be educated enough about the regulation and their rights. This is another matter of education importance to empower the locals.
It is clear that West Papua still has many opportunities to utilize its land without harming its forest area. However, to make sure that such situations can be realized, combined efforts from many parties must be maintained. Every stakeholder must be aware of their roles in this cause.