West Papua Province has huge potential for natural resources in forestry, agriculture, livestock, plantations, mining products and fishery. This potential is spread in four sub-regional development areas, including Sorong City (mining, fishery and services), Manokwari District (industrial center, fishery and agriculture), Fakfak District (forestry and industry) and Raja Ampat Regency (conservation and ecotourism).
Despite these rich natural resources, populated with 963,600 residents, West Papua is considered poor in human resources. In fact, it is among the poorest in Indonesia. West Papuans’ Human Development Index (HDI) for the past three years has been in the bottom three of 34 provinces in Indonesia.
Back in 2018, HDI of West Papuans was reportedly 63.74 and that of Papuans was 60.06. The other provinces with low HDI are East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) (64.39), West Sulawesi (65.1), West Kalimantan (66.98) and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) (67.3). Meanwhile, the then national average HDI was 71.39.
Therefore, it is important that the government optimizes both natural and human resources in Papua as well as West Papua Province, so the holistic development in the entire country can be achieved. That also means that everybody is in well-being.
The Optimization of West Papua’s Rich Natural Resources
With the total area width of 140,375.62 km2, West Papua Province is well-known for its mining, agriculture, fishery and forestry products, as well as tourism that have to be optimized to improve the local community welfare. Seaweed and pearls are mainly produced in Raja Ampat Islands while the province’s only traditional weaving industry is located in South Sorong District.
Besides that, tourist attractions that include Cendrawasih Bay National Park in Teluk Wondana District, Raja Ampat Islands, Lorenz National Park and Meyah Waterfall are among the most popular in West Papua Province.
In 2018, the provincial government took great efforts to optimize the province’s natural resource utilization. One of which is Bright Indonesia program in secluded areas. West Papua Energy and Mineral Resources Department in Manokwari coordinated with Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources as well as PT PLN (State-owned Electricity Corporation) in utilizing the potential of high temperature and water as renewable energy-based electricity.
Through the program, the government aims to provide electricity for at least 97% of the country’s population by increasing more power plants with a total capacity of 35,000 megawatts. It is expected the electricity would reach underdeveloped villages in the country’s eastern provinces, including Maluku, North Maluku, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, Papua and West Papua.
There are more potential natural resources in the province besides fisheries and water. Coals in Sorong, cement plant in Manokwari, as well as nickel in Raja Ampat District are just some of the resources that can be commodities that support the economic growth of the local community.
The Government’s Efforts in Conserving West Papua’s Natural Resources
In early 2020, Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment launched the concept of Green Investment (Investasi Hijau) or sustainable investment in both Papua and West Papua. Commodities such as cocoa, Arabica and Robusta coffee, as well as nutmeg, are ready to be improved and developed. These commodities offer an array of opportunities for ecotourism that are expected to also spur economic growth in both provinces.
To optimize the natural resource development in Papua and West Papua, the government is committed to protecting, preserving and managing the ecosystems there in a sustainable manner. Government’s commitment is implemented through the development of low-carbon development initiatives; a moratorium on oil palm plantation concessions; to a moratorium on primary natural forest and peat-land concessions.
Then, in mid-2020, PPSDM Geominerba and the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources of West Papua Province cooperated in holding a Mining Supervision Education and Training for Small Scale Mining Workers in West Papua Province. The Expert Staff to the Governor of West Papua Province, Nicolas Uttung Tike, accompanied by one of the PPSDM Geominerba lecturers, Mirna Mariana, officially opened the training at Swiss-Belhotel, Sorong.
This training was held based on the policy of West Papua which is a province of sustainable development. Thus, the management of the mining sector as a non-renewable natural resource has to be carried out wisely and sustainably. Furthermore, the training also includes guidance and capacity building of human resources for mining workers specifically in West Papua Province.
In addition to all of that, West Papua Provincial Government also imposes a tax on surface water utilization, especially by companies operating in the region, such as Tangguh LNG operation in Bintuni Bay, the cement plant in Manokwari and many more. They will all be charged with tax for using water. This is carried out to raise awareness of all elements of the community to use water wisely.
Apart from that, the provincial government would also optimize the existing tax collection, including vehicle taxes. The management and collection of vehicle taxes are considered to have great potential to be maximized. The tax funds are considered to be useful for regional development.
Papua and West Papua Provinces are extremely rich in natural resources regardless of the fact that both regions don’t have adequate human resources to optimize the utilization of natural resources. Therefore, it is the Indonesian Government’s duty to fully support natural resource development in the provinces. That does not mean exploitation, but sustainable management of natural resources.