Decentralization jeopardizes forest in Papua PDF Afdrukken

Nethy Dharma Somba
Regional autonomy in Papua poses a threat to forests in the province because the infrastructure development following autonomy would exploit forested areas, says a forestry official.

"The forested areas currently available would unlikely still be there five to 10 years from now if regional autonomy continues as it would lead to physical development," said Papua Forestry Office head Marthen Kayoi, during the launch of the Forest Governance Integrity (FGI) at the Transparency International Indonesia office in Jayapura recently.  He added that the regency capital of Keerom was previously a forested area but raised doubts whether it could still be described as such.

The current area of Papua's intact forest is 31.5 million hectares, while 5 million hectares had been categorized as critical areas from 1973 to 2003.  Kayoi said only around 24 million hectares of the forested areas would remain given the pace of regional autonomy, which has so far produced 33 regencies and municipalities. This is what's happening now. The continuing process of regional autonomy, followed by infrastructure development would further reduce the size of forested areas he said. We also could not ensure whether the remaining forested areas would exist in the next five years.

The government has designated a 4,825,786-hectare forested area in Papua as a conservation forest, or natural preserve. However, for the past several years it has received pressure in the form of conversion into farmland, settlement and infrastructure development including illegal logging. The Lorentz National Park, a protected area that has now encompassed seven regencies, including the giant PT Freeport Indonesia gold and copper mining company, due to the impact of regional autonomy.

Marthen has urged every party, including Transparency International (TI) Indonesia, which is now present in Papua, to organize the forest in a wise manner for the sake of Papuan forest sustainability. This is a challenge for the forestry office to carry out development effectively, he said. TI's presence in Papua, said FGI Asia Pacific regional manager Agustinus Taufik, urged every party to fight illegal forestry practices. With the principle of united we stand, we could develop a community that is mentally and spiritually sound for the sake of mutual prosperity, Agustinus said. Agustinus said Papua's forest is one of the best tropical rainforests in Indonesia and serves as the lungs of the earth.

Papua's forest is a valuable asset that must be managed well to improve the quality of the ecosystem and the well-being of people in Papua in particular and in Indonesia in general.