deforestation in West papua
Villagers in Boven Digoel Regency stand on a deforested area. Courtesy of Auriga Nusantara.

Jakarta gazes to the east and plans a deforestation in West Papua: Report

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West Papua No. 1 News Portal | Jubi


Jakarta, Jubi – A coalition of nongovernmental organizations released a report in February 2021, focusing on deforestation in West Papua and revealing an analysis that the deforestation in Papua Land is closely linked to the establishment of new provinces.


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Indonesia has shown a decline in the size of deforestation, prompting praises from other countries, including from Norway, which has a deforestation deal with Indonesia.


The report, however, warned that even though the trend was declining, the rate was still high.


deforestation

Annual deforestation in West Papua. Courtesy of Indonesia Monitors Coalition.

“The deforestation figures from 2015 to 2019 showed that deforestation in forest-rich provinces, although declining, it was still relatively high. We need to scrutinize the data to know the cause of the decline: was it because of the government’s work, like what Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya claimed, or was it because the natural forests outside the conservation areas and outside the forest-rich provinces have been depleted?” the report said.


The report, which analyzed the government’s forestry data and satellite images, was made by a group of 11 NGOs, the Monitor Indonesia Coalition. Among the coalition are Indonesia Environmental Forum (Walhi), Auriga, Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) of Sorong Raya chapter, Jerat Papua, Merauke Diocese’s Secretariat for Peace of the Catholic Church, and some other local NGOs.


The report showed that from 2001 to 2019, Papua Land, or internationally known as West Papua, lost 663,443 hectares of forests. The most loss, or 71 percent, happened from 2011 to 2019 and it correlated with the number of new provinces. On average, deforestation happened at 34,918 hectares annually and the highest loss happened in 2015, with 89,881 hectares.


In the two decades, Merauke Regency experienced the biggest deforestation (123,049 ha), followed by Boven Digoel Regency (51,600 ha). The two regencies are among 20 regencies in which 87 percent of deforestation in Papua over the last 20 years.


“It is worth remembering that Boven Digoel, together with Mappi and Asmat regencies, were once parts of Merauke. Local political elites are pushing for these four regencies to become a separate province named South Papua. In total, this region has accounted for 203,006 hectares of deforestation, or almost one third of all deforestation in Papua Land,” the report said.


The central government and the House of Representatives are planning to form new provinces in Papua province, one of them was South Papua. Since 2019, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian has pushed for the new provinces, especially South Papua.


The coalition pointed out that in Indonesia, deforestation was not always illegal. “By relying on the estate regime, rather than forest cover, deforestation is not automatically categorized as illegal in Indonesia. Deforestation remains legal as long as a permit is issued, or it is carried out based on official policy. Forest estate lease-use permits for mining operations, for instance, allow for legal deforestation. Deforestation by strategic mining projects is made possible, including through policies on forest estate release for non-forestry purposes,” the report said.


The report showed that the highest number of hectares in forest loss in Papua Land happened during Siti Nurbaya tenure, but the permit for the largest number of forest loss was issued by the minister before her, which is Zulkifli Hasan, with 37 permits covering 887,113 hectares.


deforestation

Courtesy of Indonesia Monitors Coalition.

“In addition to deforestation being allowed, forest cover at the time an area of estate is released is a determining factor as to whether or not the released area becomes a source of deforestation. Checks using satellite imagery show that 1,292,497 hectares, or 82% of the total area released for oil palm had natural forest cover at the time of release,” the report went on.


The coalition found that in 2019, there were still 1,145,902 hectares of natural forest cover that had yet to be cleared by the companies who held the permit to turn the hectares into something else like palm plantation. The report said the permit not only allowed the companies holding them to cut the trees and destroy the forest, but “procedurally” the government would even blame them if they did not turn the forest into palm plantations.


“This policy shows that basically the government is planning deforestation in Papua,” the coalition said in closing the report.

Earlier, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and West Papua provincial administration reported that 576,090 hectares of West Papua forests were in the hands of 24 palm companies.


Read also: 576,090 ha of West Papua forests are in the hands of 24 palm companies: Report


The companies operated in eight regencies in the province: Sorong, South Sorong, Manokwari, South Manokwari, Teluk Wondama, Teluk Bintuni, Maybrat, and Fakfak.


The KPK said in a press conference that out of the figure, 383,431 hectares could still be “saved” as they still had forest vegetation.

From the evaluation, KPK found most of the companies had yet to operate on the land, which meant the companies had yet to complete the permits and not yet planted the palm.


KPK said there were potentials to revoke the permits legally.

“Revoking the permits is possible because some of the companies shirked off their responsibilities if we check their permits, especially the Plantation Business Permit,” Alexander said.


Editor: Evi Mariani

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