The Environment – Resource Boom or Grand Theft?

The Environment -Resource Boom or Grand Theft?

Deforestation “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, develop, control and use the lands and territories, papua-01including the total environment of the lands, air, waters, coastal seas, flora and fauna and other resources which they have traditionally owned otherwise occupied or used. This includes the right to the full recognition of their laws, traditions and customs, land-tenure systems, and institutions for the development and management of resources, and the right to effective measures by States to prevent any interference with, alienation of or encroachment upon these rights. ” Logging is one of the major causes of environmental destruction in West Papua. As Indonesia’s own forest resources decline, it has turned its attention to West Papua. Indonesia’s forest practices generally have little or no attention paid to the environmental impact of logging. Many of the indigenous people of West Papua are threatened as vast tracts of land have been granted as concessions to timber companies, a practice which is having severe social and physical consequences. The island of New Guinea is one of the most biologically diverse in the world. There are species of flora and fauna in common with Australia, such as some marsupials, the bird of paradise and eucalyptus trees. Numerous species, unique to the island, are threatened by logging and other development projects. Second only to the Amazon, the island of New Guinea has one of the largest tracts of tropical rainforest left in the world. West Papua’s forests, rich in bio-diversity, account for approximately 34.6 million hectares or 24 per cent of Indonesia’s total forested area of 143 million hectares. Over 27.6 million hectares of forest in West Papua have been designated as production forest. Indonesia has encouraged the development of a large timber-processing industry by banning the export of raw logs and has become one of the world’s largest exporters of plywood. As Indonesia’s own forest resources decline in Sumatra and Kalimantan (there is an estimated rate of deforestation of about 1.6 million ha annually), the forestry industry has now targetted West Papua. This is also part of Indonesia’s “Go East” development program. Four Jakarta-based timber tycoons have divided West Papua between them, this domination of the resource being achieved with support from the military government. To exploit the country’s resources fully the government has given the construction of roads a high priority. These roads are being constructed in previously inaccessible areas. The companies operating in West Papua’s forests include PT Djayanti Group, PT Barito Pacific Timber Group, PT Porodisa Group, PT Kayo Lapis Indonesia Group, PT Mutiara Group, PT You Lim Sari, PT Astra (Indonesia), Marubeni, Sagindo (Japan), and Mamberamo (Australia). Lavalin (Canada) has been engaged in survey work. According to government regulations, logging in concessions is selective, but as in other tropical countries, in practice these regulations are rarely enforced. Logging roads are carelessly constructed, leading to substantial soil erosion and consequent silting of rivers and irregularity of river flow. Roads are routinely built over minor streams; the result is a roadside string of standing pools, which produce unusually high concentrations of mosquitoes and present the threat of malaria and other diseases. Logs are skidded out to the main road by heavy machinery, resulting in a dense network of bulldozer tracks. The heavy machinery destroys trees used by local people for food sources and traditional medicines. These disruptions jeopardise the long term recovery of the forests especially if we also take into account the large amount of illegal logging and the fact there seems to be little attempt to replant previously logged areas. The Transmigration program has also been responsible for the destruction of over 900,000 ha of rainforest and this destruction will continue as more land is cleared for settlements and agriculture. The danger is that if no action is taken to stop this destruction, West Papua could lose two thirds of its forests by the year 2000. One of the most recent conflicts is between the Moi people and the Intimpura Timber company. Like other indigenous communities in West Papua, the Moi way of life is being threatened. Under Indonesian national law all land, not being actively used for agriculture, housing or industry, is state property. In 1990 the government granted a logging concession of 339,000 ha to the Intimpura Timber Company, without informing the traditional landowners. The Moi people have resisted the encroachment of the company on their land, and have made representations to the company, local government, forestry service and the army (in Indonesia, the army assists in national development and was in fact the initial owner of the logging concession). However, the government, company and the army remain firm in their policy of not recognising any form of land rights. As the Moi have continued to protest they have been accused of being “security disturbers” (the official term for the OPM, and used to silence any form of indigenous protest).

Indonesia food security project threatens Papuan way of life

Indonesia food security project threatens Papuan way of life

By Thin Lei Win

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Indigenous Papuans are at risk of further marginalisation and the forests and ecosystems on which they rely face destruction due to an ambitious food security project by the Indonesian government, activists say.

Under MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) plans, 1.63 million hectares of forest which forms the basis of life for some 200,000 indigenous people in the Merauke area would be used to grow rice, palm oil, soya bean and corn among other crops.

Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against climate change and is under intense international pressure to curb its rapid deforestation rate and destruction of carbon-rich peatlands.

Activists accuse the authorities of not sufficiently consulting the Malind Anim people about the project, which they say pose a double threat to local Papuans. Not only would they lose their customary lands, but they would also face an influx of migrants from the rest of Indonesia — further marginalising communities that feel disenfranchised by what they say is the government’s exploitation of natural resources at their expense.

“If this project goes ahead, it means we will lose everything – we will lose our land, our culture, our livelihood, our food,” Rosa Moiwend, a Papuan activist whose family still lives in Merauke, told AlertNet.

The transition from forest to farm and plantation land would have a “tremendous” impact on natural ecosystems, Carlo Nainggolan from Indonesian rights group Sawit Watch, said.

“Indigenous people who have made use of natural forests to meet necessities of life will experience a dramatically decreased quality of life and well-being,” he said.

Department of Agriculture officials did not respond to a request for comment.


Papua, two provinces on the west half of New Guinea island, has long suffered strained ties with Indonesia which took over the area from Dutch colonial rule in 1963. And this week, thousands of indigenous Papuans them marched on the parliament in the capital of Papua, demanding a referendum on independence from the archipelago.

Despite being home to a mine with the world’s largest gold and recoverable copper reserves, Papua is one of the least developed regions in Indonesia. According to the United Nations, 40 percent of Papuans live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day, compared to the national average of 18 percent.

Both the central and regional governments have hailed MIFEE as the answer not only to Indonesia’s growing concerns about food shortages but as a source of exports.

The project is expected to produce close to 2 million tonnes of rice, almost 1 million tonnes of corn, 2.5 million tonnes of sugar and close to 1 million tonnes of crude palm oil, according to local media reports.

However, activists point out that the staple food for Papuans is sago, a starch derived from sago palm, not rice. And they say there has been discontent in some areas where compensation from companies clearing and managing the land was deemed insufficient.

Despite a recent government pledge to resolve land tenure conflicts and protect the rights of people in forest-based communities, activists say most locals remain in the dark about the project.

“People from the village, when asked about MIFEE project replied, ‘MIFEE is a car that frequently crosses the road that reads MIFEE (on the body of the car)’,” Sawit Watch’s Nainggolan said.


The massive scale of the project and nature of the indigenous people’s skills – many make a living hunting and gathering rather than farming – means a huge workforce is likely to be imported from outside Papua, activists say.

Sawit Watch estimate that some 5 million workers were needed to work the land, or four labourers per hectare. Yet, based on the 2009 census, the number of people native to Merauke was 195,577, Nainggolan said.

The low levels of education, knowledge and Indonesian language skills also mean indigenous Papuans are likely to be only involved in MIFEE as low-skilled labourers despite the loss of their land and livelihoods, he said.

Moiwend summed up the anger felt by activists.

“If the Indonesian government says that we are a part of them, that we are their brothers and sisters like they say, why do they do this project?,” she said. “They don’t want us to live in our own land. They want to kill us with this project.”

MIFEE project violates human rights

MIFEE project violates human rights


One year after the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) Project was launched by the central government, the situation of the people in Merauke  has become a matter of grave concern.  The indigenous Malind  people and the inhabitants in Merauke in general have been threatened and marginalised as a result of the conversion of their land and their ancestral forests by the MIFEE Project.

Research undertaken by Pusaka, called  ‘MIFEE does not reflect the aspirations of the Malind people’ drew the conclusion that the MIFEE Project was launched as the illegitimate offspring of the global food crisis for Food, Feed, Fuel and Climate Change (3F and 2C).  MIFEE is called the ‘illegitimate offspring’ because it is not a solution that serves the interests of the majority of the people but is the result of a conspiracy between capitalists and the government in search of economic rent side by side with cramped living conditions for the majority of the people. In the words of Emillianus Ola Kleden, a researcher for Pusaka Foundation, the MIFEE programme will have a number of negative impacts on the social and cultural fabric, the demographics, the social and economic conditions and the environment of the people. These negative impacts  will also worsen the living conditions of many groups living in the areas affected by the project.

Laksmi A Savitri, a researcher for the Sajogyo Institute, came across facts showing that MIFEE is a development model which makes no provision for improving the living standards  of the indigenous people in Merauke and is only focussed on the accumulation of corporate profits. There are three reasons for this, according to Laksmi:  firstly, it fails to respect the concept of land and identity  which is inseparable from the identity and dignity of the Malind people; secondly, it fails to understand the close links between the Malind people’s system of living and the natural resources and the forests, and assumes that the loss of forestry resources will be replaced by opportunities to work as day labourers for the companies; and thirdly, it pays no attention to the process of meaningful social transformation for the Malind people towards a better life in ways and forms that are defined by the Malind people themselves.

According to Billy Metemko, chairman of Sorpatom Merauke, the Merauke Project  has already caused significant damage  to  the social structure of the customary groups who have lost land where they are able to look for food and fulfil their social  needs, like what has happened in Zanegi Kampung in the operational area of PT Medco or Domande Kampung in the operational area of PT Rajawali and Nakias Kampung in the operational area of PT Dongin Prabhawa.  The destruction of these forests has resulted in the destruction of traditional symbols, the source of their livelihood, while in the longer term, it will lead to the wholesale destruction and extermination of traditional communities in Merauke.

Since 2010, Sawit Watch and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Merauke (SKP-Merauke) have held a number of meetings in kampungs along the border region between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in South Papua and have discovered that land has been allocated for palm oil plantations on a massive scale. In the district of Merauke, at least 380,887 hectares have been allocated to ten companies, and 320,000 hectares in the district of Boven Digoel where licences have been issued to eight palm oil plantation companies. Opening up the land to palm oil plantations  on such a large scale has resulted in forest areas in the south of Papua having been turned into mono-cultural  plantations  leading to ecological destruction and the permanent and irreversible loss of its vitally important diversity. The presence of traditional communities  and indigenous Papuan people whose lives still depend on the forests will eventually be uprooted and marginalised as a consequence of development schemes that fail to take account of local wisdom and culture.

Bearing these conditions in mind, civil society in Indonesia has warned the Indonesian government and parliament, the DPR RI, that this project is more harmful than beneficial. Nevertheless the government  seems to have refused to listen to reports about the destruction of the environment, the food culture of the traditional communities and their life spaces and the destruction of Merauke’s forests. Sorpatom (Solidarity of Papuan People Rejecting MIFEE) has on numerous occasions organised activities to reject the  presence of MIFEE. Komali (the Community of Traditional Communities) wrote to the Indonesian president last year expressing the same views about MIFEE.

A field visit to Merauke by the environmental NGO WALHI in June 2011 discovered that during the course of the past year, at least one hundred thousand hectares of natural forest in Merauke have been cleared, including sago hamlets which protected food security  at all times, regardless of the season, and are very adaptable to changes in the climate. The marshlands are threatened  by drought, as a result of which  fish, birds  and deer  that have provided the local people with their source of protein will find it increasingly difficult to enjoy the necessary living space. Eventually, the Economic, Social and Cultural (ECOSOC)  rights will become ever more inaccessible to protection and provision by the state. Berry N. Forqan, the national executive director of WALHI, has stated that it is reasonable to say that the Indonesian government should be regarded as having caused the violation of basic human rights with the MIFEE Project.

Sinal Blegur, a member of the Working Group of NGOs in Papua, said that the violation of these ECOSOC rights will ultimately lead to the violation of  civil and political rights because MIFEE could potentially pave the way for the security forces  to enter the region on a massive scale to protect the operations of the companies.

In view of the above, dozens of local, national and international NGOs  have in the past month jointly produced a report to be submitted  to the Special Rapporteur of the UN on the Right to Food, drawing attention to threats to the right to food  of the traditional communities in Merauke. According to Abet Nego Tarigan, executive director of Sawit Watch, 22 NGOs  have so far signed  this document, representing the traditional communities in Merauke who are the victims or potential victims of the MIFEE Project The report has also been sent to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  of the Human Rights Treaties Division.

This means that all civil society organisations which are concerned with the rights and living space for indigenous Papuan people should call on the government to immediately halt all MIFEE activities and Food Estates in general  in Indonesia that are  damaging the environment and forcing the  removal of traditional communities from their traditional land  and areas which they manage. The national, provincial and district governments must stop granting location licences  to companies and hold an inclusive dialogue, in which the Malind people are central, to discuss the allocation of land, the provision of space and development capital for agriculture, in conformity with social transformation that can bring the Malind people self-reliance and dignity.

All this is intended to ensure that similar operations that have resulted in the massive destruction of the environment which have occurred in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi  should not be repeated in Papua.

Environmental NGO Claims Papuan Landowners Exploited

Environmental NGO Claims Papuan Landowners Exploited

Radio New Zealand
May 18, 2012

Environmental NGO Claims Papuan Landowners Exploited

An international environmental group says a Hong Kong owned oil palm
developer paid traditional landowners in Indonesia’s Papua region as
little as 65 cents a hectare for their forestland.

The London based, Environmental Investigation Agency, says the
company, PT Henrison Inti Persada, bought land and timber from the Moi
clans at extremely low prices.

It says it paid the tribesmen less than 1000 US dollars for nearly 15
square kilometres of forest.

Henrison could not be reached for comment.

But when the Hong Kong-based commodities conglomerate Noble Group
bought a majority stake in the company in 2010, industry analysts
estimated the plantation would be worth 162 million US dollars when

And it says Norway, which is providing a billion US dollars to help
Indonesia save its tropical forests, is also a major investor in Noble
Group through its sovereign wealth fund.

Beleaguered West Papuans left to count the cost of Indonesia’s palm oil boom

Beleaguered West Papuans left to count the cost of Indonesia’s palm oil boom


Beleaguered West Papuans left to count the cost of Indonesia’s palm oil boom

Indigenous Papuans are reeling from the cut-price sale of the land and forests that are their lifeblood

West Papua’s indigenous people hurt by Indonesia’s resource extraction Link to this video

Papua is one of the last great frontier wildernesses. Its vast rainforests and coral rich waters are home to more than 250 indigenous tribes, the most linguistically diverse population on Earth. But it is also the scene of a brutal and under-reported conflict.

Indonesia took control of the western half of New Guinea – now the provinces of Papua and West Papua – in 1969. Its claim was ratified by the UN through the controversial Act of Free Choice, in which only 1,026 of an estimated population of 800,000 Papuans voted for Indonesian sovereignty, having been selected by the Indonesian military.

Since then, Indonesia has been trying to extinguish an increasingly desperate independence movement. Amnesty International estimates that at least 100,000 indigenous lives have been lost as a direct result of the conflict.

West Papua is of immense importance to Indonesia because of its wealth of natural resources. Indonesian and multinational companies reap enormous profits from timber, mining and fossil fuel interests in the territory, yet standards of health and education for indigenous Papuans are far below the national average. While resources flow out to world markets, a constant stream of Malay migrants is reducing the Melanesian population to a minority underclass in their own land.

Environmental impacts have been severe. Rampant illegal logging decimated swathes of primary forest, before Indonesia’s current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, finally took steps to curb it. In May 2011, he signed a moratorium freezing all new permits to clear primary forest, in exchange for the promise of up to $1bn in grants and compensation from the Norwegian government through its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Redd) programme. In 2007, Indonesia’s CO2 emissions were the third highest in the world after the US and China, according to a World Bank report.

But another industry is now threatening West Papua’s unique forest ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. Ironically, it is an agribusiness touted as one of the solutions to global warming rather than a driver of it. The recent growth of palm oil plantations in Indonesia has been exponential, driven by the food and cosmetic industries and an anticipated biofuels boom as the world seeks alternatives to petrol. Ironically, the country’s carbon-sequestering forests are being cleared to make way for these plantations.

Based on ancient systems of ancestral tenure, much of West Papua’s rainforest is actually owned by the indigenous population. But palm oil companies owned by powerful corporations are coercing communities into selling their land, sometimes for less than $1 a hectare. Promises to build schools and homes go unfulfilled, and villagers are left bereft of the ecosystems they have relied on for generations.

Even more concerning, a report by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals that Norway is profiting from West Papua’s plantation boom, in spite of its commendable efforts through Redd+. The country’s Government Pension Fund – Global (GPFG), the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, is heavily invested in the Noble group, a Singaporean commodities trading company that is the majority shareholder in one such palm oil operation.

PT Henrison Inti Persada (PT HIP) is one of three palm oil plantations in the Sorong Regency of West Papua, all of them established by the Kayu Lapis Indonesia (KLI) group, one of Indonesia’s biggest logging and plantation companies. According to the EIA and Greenpeace (pdf), KLI has flouted forestry laws.

The EIA report uncovers serious instances of malpractice by PT HIP in its dealings with Sorong Regency’s Mooi people, including a contract indicating the company paid 8.5m rupiahs ($925) for a 1,420-hectare plot owned by the Gilik clan of Malilis village. That is just 65 cents a hectare. Once developed, similar land assets have been valued at about $5,000 a hectare.

Villagers in nearby Klamono reported that a four-year-old child was made to sign a contract in 2006 stipulating that, if his father died, PT HIP would retain control of the land it had purchased. When EIA visited in May 2011, the villagers had still not received the homes, vehicles and education they had been promised. The EIA report goes on to detail instances of illegal land clearing, logging and corporate coercion by PT HIP and associated company PT Inti Kebun Sejahtera (PT IKS), both associated with KLI.

Noble purchased a 51% stake in PT HIP in 2010, paying $24,525,000. According to analysis obtained by EIA, once developed the plantation could be worth more than six times as much. When questioned about PT HIP’s record, Stephen Brown, Noble’s director of corporate affairs, said “the company and the relevant parties are actively engaged in a process aimed at any justified grievances being settled amicably”.

Noble’s shareholders will have ample reason to celebrate – not least Norway’s GPFG, with its $47m stake in the company. According to Hilde Singsaas, state secretary at Norway’s ministry of finance, the GPFG follows established ethical guidelines in its investments.

“An independent council on ethics advises the ministry on companies in the portfolio with activities which might be in breach of these guidelines,” said Singsaas, adding that the GPFG also invests$20bn in targeted environmental investments.

Nevertheless, Norway is involved in the continued destruction of the very forests it is trying to preserve, demonstrating how the complex investment portfolios in the commodities marketplace implicate not only multinationals but entire countries in environmental degradation and social injustice.

Meanwhile, the people of West Papua continue to lose their land and their way of life in return for pocket change and empty promises.

Indigenous rights rising in tropical forests, but big gaps remain

Indigenous rights rising in tropical forests, but big gaps remain


Jeremy Hance
May 31, 2012

In the last twenty years, rights for indigenous forest dwellers have expanded significantly, according to a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). ....  read more