Culture for A Healthy Environment in West Papua

West Papua
Source : Mongabay

Environmental concerns have become a worrying issue around the world. Deforestation and pollution get worse every day. Becoming one of the regions with the widest forest in Indonesia, West Papua also faces the same concern.

Industries’ land acquisition through deforestation makes the land suffer. While the establishment of industries brings greater good, it can also bring greater evil. The government has conducted many attempts to stop this. But, the progress is slow and is often fail.

West Papua
Source : TNI AD

Environmental Issues

Deforestation is the main issue in West Papua. In 2015, the area of natural forest reduced by 0.1%. Then, the percentage increased in 2019 by 1.08%. Thus, the total reduction of natural forests during the 2015–2019 period was 1.18%. Or, the natural forest covered the area of 201,677 in 2019 from 204,088 in 2015. (http://ppid.menlhk.go.id/berita-dokumen/1)

The omnibus law issued in 2021 even worsened the condition. The law issued many permits for industries to open land without considering environmental management and control.

– Omnibus Law

Hariadi Kertodihardjo, the Professor in Forestry and Environment Faculty of IPB, stated that through various regulations of the Omnibus Law, the government reduced the standard of environmental management and natural resources utilization fairness.

The government’s goodwill has been mentioned in 90 and 91 Articles of Government Regulation number 23 of 2021 on forestry management. The regulation details that the government allows the forest to be managed as production and protected forests without changing the main function of the forest and its environmental sustainability.

But, the law has a potential risk to the environment. Article 92 allows open-pit mining in a protected forest after conducting a study on the permanent effect of subsidence and the change of forest main function. The law contradicts Article 38 of Forestry Law which mentions that concessioners of the protected forest are prohibited from performing open-pit mining.

Article 372 of the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number 7 of 2021 stipulates the quota of forest utilization permit area for mineral and coal mining to be 10 percent max from small islands and Forestry Settlement area in Java for the production and protected forest area. (https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20210831140942-20-687820/pakar-sebut-uu-ciptaker-telah-rusak-lingkungan-di-papua-barat)

The World’s Environmental Problems

Climate change is the world’s biggest problem. The earth’s temperature rises due to greenhouse emissions. A two-degree temperature rise could make Indonesia loses thousands of island.

Meanwhile, the human population keeps growing and is not accompanied by the increase of food products, including fish and other seafood. The quality of the sea ecosystem decreases. Some area in Indonesia which was rich in fish experience overfishing due to exploitation and ecosystem damage.

Mangrove preservation in West Papua is said to help solve those two worlds’ biggest problems. This is due to the mangroves in the region absorbing 717 tons of carbon per hectare, bigger than that of the tropical rainforest. Besides, the mangrove ecosystem help preserves fishery commodity, like mud crab.

West Papua: Conservation Province and 5 Environmental Victories

The government of the eastern region of Indonesia commits to environmental preservation. This was proven by the provision of 70 percent of land and 50 percent of the sea to be used as protected areas.

– Indonesia’s First Conservation Province

Environmental conservation and preservation are in line with the vision and missions of the local government on a sustainable environment. This is not only an attempt to protect biota, habitat, and natural wealth diversity, but also to strengthen law enforcement against any kind of illegal use of natural resources.

The local government also attempts to create economic value from biota and habitat protection by low carbon investment. They tried to manage the cumulative impacts against local environment support power and increase public role in managing natural resources management and environmental preservation based on local custom and wisdom.

The commitment of West Papua to be a conservation province can be a good and sustainable model and example of forest and land management. But, the unavailability of one map Indonesia as the foundation policy causes land conflict, land possession overlapping, land corruption, customary rights violation, and environmental damages.

The map will not only minimize land conflict but also means of documentation by customary people. This is carried out no other than to gain acknowledgment of their participation in spatial planning and regulation that will determine the future of their homes. (https://www.portonews.com/2019/keuangan-dan-portfolio/lingkungan-hidup/konservasi-dan-pelestarian-lingkungan-jangan-ragukan-komitmen-papua-barat/)

– One of 5 Environmental Victories

National Geographic mentioned the forest protection policy by the government of West Papua in 5 environmental victories in 2021. The article wrote that the local government revoked permission of 12 palm tree plantation contracts involving 660,000 acres of land where sixty percent of which still holds the status of the primeval forest.

Knowing this, Head of Horticultural Food Crops and Plantation of West Papua Yacob Fonataba was proud of the achievement. He was glad that the local government policy received appreciation from the world.

Fonataba further stated that the province has participated in protecting the species and forest. This also helped support Corruption Eradication Commission through the National Movement to Save National Resources. The regulation has saved 611,440.84 hectares of land from 24 companies.