Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Polititians Plan to Pulp Papua

Politicians and bureaucrats in Jakarta are planning to pulp Papua for paper because of the large area of forests available there, according to recent press reports. According to a Jakarta Post article, following a 20th July paper industry event in Riau, Industry minister MS Hidayat said: “In future, we plan to expand the development of the pulp and paper industry to eastern Indonesia." Papua was on his mind.

The plans were confirmed by Hadi Daryanto, Director General of Forestry Production Development at the Ministry of Forestry. Hadi told Tempo journalists In future, we plan to expand the development of the pulp and paper industry to eastern Indonesia”, specifically referring to Papua. He added the policy of expanding industrial timber estates (HTI) to Papua "has always been promoted. Its just that nobody wanted to."

With all that Norway REDD cash now on the table, and with recent exposes of major deforestation by HTI plantations in Riau, both men obviously tried to argue that Papua's vital forests would not be damaged. Mr Hidayat reportedly said “The government will help all pulp and paper producers as long as they do not damage forests as foreign NGOs have claimed”. Mr Daryanto reportedly argued that "of course HTI license is given only in the lands that were damaged or degraded."

Yet the nice-sounding-logic is clearly not backed up by reality. 

In late 2008, the Ministry of Forestry intentionally revoked a decree that banned HTI companies from harvesting natural forests, which was supposed to come into effect in January 2009. In one decree Indonesia granted HTI companies a 6 year extension on forest destruction, allowing conversion of natural forests for timber estates until 2014. None of these rights will be affected by Norway's $1 Billion. 

More to the point, news articles covering the recent comments on pulping Papua clearly link the desire to locate HTI plantations in Papua with the forest and timber available there. The Jakarta Post states: 

"The Industry Ministry said Tuesday that the government planned to expand the pulp and paper industry to eastern Indonesia, including Papua, because of its vast tracts of forest."

Tempo's coverage states "Hadi said the actual condition of forests in Papua are suitable for pulp and paper industry. Because if you want to build pulp industries you must be able to supply raw materials."

Hadi also admitted that;

"many investors are asking permission [for] plantations in Papua. Viewing these circumstances, the Ministry of Forestry will encourage the development of timber plantations in Papua in order to create equality."

Ah, that's nice Hadi - "equality". 

Perhaps Mr Daryanto should explain to the Papuans that their forests will soon be sold to the highest bidder with the biggest pulp mill. Surely that will calm down Papuans' legitimate and growing anger at the failure of Special Autonomy to bring any equality to Papua at all. With the "equality" Hadi is promising, Papuans will now be able to sign away more of their land and resources for decades for as little as $ 1.5 per hectare, as is happening in the oil palm sector in Papua.

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