Papua’s Role As The Owner of One of The Rainforests In The World*l-FAi348S3Xpfa-rWj1rmw.jpeg

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Climate change is real. It is as real as Covid-19 itself and other issues, like poverty and social segregation worldwide. Although deforestation nationally dropped in 2020, threats still need to be worried about. As a home to more rainforests than any other country globally, Indonesia has Papua.

Do you feel that the temperature has been rather hot lately, with a serious amount of humidity? Do you realize that the weather has been off the chart, rather inconsistent lately? If you do, you notice that those are the signs of climate change. The world is getting hotter, and it has not been a comforting place to live lately.

So, what is the role of Papua as one of the owners of the rainforests in the world?

From The 2020 Deforestation Drop to Other Threats That Still Remain

Alongside Brazil and The Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia is one of the countries with massive, dense rainforests. Papua is one of the provinces which still own rainforests. Rainforests work wonders in reducing carbon footprints to tackle environmental problems, including climate change.

Unfortunately, deforestation has always been a serious environmental issue for a very long time. Since 2001, almost 30 million hectares (about 74 million acres) of tree cover in Southeast Asia have been lost. It is equal to the size of Italy, and the number is bigger than Brazil’s similar forest loss.

Deforestation in Indonesia had reached its peak in 2016 before its significant dropped around 2017 – 2019. That was the timeline when Joko Widodo first became the President of Indonesia. In 2019, the statistics on deforestation had a sharp decline of 75%. Based on the government data, 2020 marked a significant drop in deforestation.

There has been a long, heated debate because Indonesia’s many environmental groups also point out that this issue should be handled not only by national perspective. Besides Papua, there are still nine other provinces with rainforests in Indonesia under the threat of deforestation.

In ten of the most forest-rich provinces in Indonesia, deforestation was still a serious threat. Between 2010 – 2014, about 1.8 million hectares (around 4.4 million acres) were lost, and between 2015 – 2019, about 1.85 million hectares (around 4.6 million acres) were also lost.

The ten provinces mentioned above includes: West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, North Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, West Papua, and Aceh. In total, Indonesia has about 80% remaining forest cover so far. The majority of it lies within the eastern region of Indonesia.

In Papua alone, there are a million hectares  (or 2.5 million acres) of rainforest which have been licensed out for a palm oil plantation. However, the amount had been cleared to palm oil companies by September 2021.

The End of The Three-Year Moratorium On The Issuance of New Oil Palm Plantation Permits

Another concerning part is the end of the three-year moratorium on issuing new oil palm plantation permits. The moratorium has been extended until September 2021. After that, the one million hectares of rainforest were used for oil palm plantations.

Jokowi announced the moratorium in 2015 before he signed it in 2018. Although the end was supposed to be after three years, it has been extended until September 2022. According to the deputy agriculture minister, Indonesia would use that opportunity to regulate the oil palm sector with the already “existing laws”.

Johny Kamuru, the elected head of Sorong district in West Papua, was one of the few regional leaders who canceled the licenses of several plantation firms. Last December 2021, two companies were sued regarding the issues of violations by license holders of palm oil plantations.

Oil palm plantations can still be environmentally-friendly if the laws and regulations still make sure that they do not go overboard that the forests are harmed in the process.

So, What Is Papua’s Role After All?

Papua is not – and should not be – the only province with rainforests to tackle environmental issues like climate change. Yes, deforestation has indeed slowed down a bit since 2020. Still, we must keep our eyes open that it has not completely stopped just yet.

One of the ways to save the rainforests from deforestation and other exploitations is to have clear regulations in terms of forestry. Clear laws and regulations must also consider the indigenous Papuans – who have more rights on what to do with their rainforests.

That way, the rainforests will remain as the best weapons to tackle environmental issues, from supplying oxygen to reducing carbon footprints in the sky. That is why Papua needs to keep its rainforests intact. That is their role to the world in terms of environmental issues. The rainforests in the land are just the last frontier against climate change which is still a major threat to our existence on earth.