Environmental crisis is also a major issue in West Papua. There are many efforts to solve this crisis, including going back to the local wisdom taught by ancestors.
Many parts of the world encounter environmental crises. West Papua has also faced various challenges in maintaining its natural environment. People are looking for ways to deal with this crisis before the damage becomes widespread. Sometimes, the solution is already in front of our eyes, though.
Environmental Problems in the Area
There are several problems that the environment in Papua has suffered from in the last few decades. The problems include:
This is a severe issue for people who live there. Deforestation occurs due to two main reasons. First, people need to cut down the vegetation to make way for human settlement. Many people are starting to adapt to a more modern housing system, not to mention that people from other areas are settling in the province.
The second reason for deforestation is to support its growing agriculture sector. A big chunk of Papua’s forest was cut down for palm plantations. Only in the last 20 years, the loss has reached more than 660,000 hectares. It calls for an urgent response from the government.
West Papua is a region that is blessed with plenty of natural resources. Local and central governments use their resources to improve the economy. One way to utilize the resources is mining. The number of mining spots in the province keeps increasing. There are many commodities to source, including gold and copper.
Unfortunately, the development of the mining sector in the province causes a side effect on its environment. It is the increased pollution, particularly in areas surrounding the mining spots. The quality of air and water is reduced drastically due to some poor mining practices. Local communities are greatly affected by this situation.
Habitat loss of endemic biodiversity
The habitat loss of endemic biodiversity in the province is linked to the deforestation that happens there. Native animals and plants no longer have a place to thrive because their habitats are used for human settlements or production processes.
It results in the depleting number of endemic biodiversity in the area. Many native wild lives are considered rare and even nearly extinct. This condition is further aggravated by poaching activity. In later years, our children may not be able to see the rich biodiversity of the region unless the government takes action.
Another major issue in West Papua is the contamination of its soil. In areas close to mines, soil contamination can happen due to improper planning and operation by the company. However, it turns out that it is not the only reason for soil pollution in the region.
Community-based waste is a big contributor to soil degradation in the area. In their day-to-day activities, people will always produce waste. When the waste is not appropriately managed, the environment will have repercussions. In this case, it is the depleting quality of the soil.
Current Rehabilitation Efforts in West Papua
The government has made several efforts to tackle the issue of environmental deterioration in the province. There are two efforts to be discussed: an enrichment program for people and pushing companies to adhere to green production practices. Here is the more comprehensive explanation:
Training Programs for Locals
Building the capacity of local people to manage the environment becomes a program of the current administration. By building local capacities, we can ensure that people in the region have the knowledge and skill to improve its environmental condition. That way, the green development effort can be run independently.
As an example, the central government invited provincial officers and local environmental activists to join strategic development training. The training aims to equip them with the necessary capacity to direct the development process that does not sacrifice the environment. These people can hopefully implement it in their communities.
Stricter Regulation for Companies
Implementing a stricter regulation to industry players in West Papua is another step that the government takes. Various environmental issues are caused by companies that do not practice environmentally responsible operations.
The government also urges companies to take responsibility should there be environmental repercussions due to their operations. These companies need to pay the penalty to communities surrounding their operational sites.
Local Wisdom to Deal with Environment Issues
The efforts exercised by the government are no doubt important. However, it is important to integrate locals into the project even more. The reason is that people in this region actually have the local wisdom to live in harmony with nature. It is more beneficial to re-introduce this wisdom.
Harmonious living is especially prevalent among those who live in tribes. These tribal people make an effort not to harm the environment by building houses, sourcing food, and doing other daily activities. It is a type of philosophy that needs to be revamped.
One of the ways to realize the revitalization of local wisdom in West Papua is by integrating it into the education system and government administration process. The future of the environment in that region is in the hands of locals. Right steps must be taken to prevent further damages.