Monday, December 8, 2008

The leasing of Papuan Tropical Rainforest, too low for compensation, too stupid for conversion

by Charles Roring from Manokwari West Papua
In my previous post I criticized about how unfair and unwise the leasing of Papuan forest in Manokwari, West Papua is. A palm oil plantation company named PT Medco Papua Hijau Selaras has reached an agreement with families of the indigenous tribes in Manokwari for the leasing of a total land area of 5,930 hectares for Sawit Plantation. The company has begun paying Rp. 450,000 or around 36 US dollars per hectare once for 35 years. It is the same as Rp. 45 per square meter. For me, it is CRAZY and it makes me angry.
Through this posting I appeal to environmental groups in local, national and international levels to take actions to save this last remaining tropical rainforest in the world beside the Amazon of Brazil.
Until now, the company has been preparing sawit seedlings. Next year they will begin logging and clearing the land and possibly start planting the sawit seedlings.
It seems that local government officials do not see this as a serious problem. As they don't have any comprehensive plan to lift these indigenous Papuan tribes from poverty, they tend to invite as many investors as possible to the area without looking into details of how these investors take advantage of the Papuan natural resources, for instance, from logging these 5,930 hectares alone, the company will get a lot  of profit. When the seedling starts to grow, they can sell the carbon offset to world market if they successfully get the certification for carbon capture.
Scheme such as eco-tourism where travelers can enjoy bird watching and orchid observation is considered not important due to its tiny or no contribution to government's budget. Another option such as selling carbon offset to carbon market is seen as a complicated one.
While Papuan rainforest has been the respirator that absorb million tons of the world's CO2e emission for hundreds years, the world has not done enough to protect it. We need immediate actions to provide alternatives to the conversion of tens of thousands of hectares of this pristine rainforest into a monoculture palm oil plantation.
We cannot only shout "stop logging the Papuan rainforest, stop converting it to sawit plantation, stop clearing the swampy sago trees area for rice fields." We have to move out from these old jargons. We know that these indigenous Papuan needs improvements in their living condition. We must help them from giving up their lands to sawit plantation and rice fields which are not native plants for Papua.
I know that some groups in Papua have begun extracting the wealth of Papuan forest by harvesting its  non-wood products such as Red Fruit, and Sarang Semut, and Masoi bark for medicinal products. Some travel agencies in Europe also have done their best by selling tour package to those who want to watch exotic paradise bird and bower bird perform their courtship dance or observe wild orchid. We need more sustainable schemes to support the indigenous people.
Well, more things need to be done ranging from helping the local indigenous people to certify their forest for selling carbon offset where the money can be used to improve their education and health facilities, to inviting more eco-travelers to Papua.
But the most important thing that we must do now is stopping the clearing of thousands hectares of this Papua forest into monoculture sawit plantation. Somebody out there, do something!
Also read:  Irresponsible Logging the Main Cause of Deforestation