MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesian Floods blamed on deforestation & mining

Published by MAC on 2010-10-18
Source: Jakarta Post

Well over a hundred lives have been lost so far in devastating floods which struck part of West Papua earlier this month.

Indonesia's Green Indonesia Institute, together with the national mining advocacy organisation Jatam, have placed blame for the disaster on both forestry and mining.

Green Indonesia Institute chairman, Chalid Muhammad, declares: "If there is no review of existing licenses, the threat of future ecological disasters in West Papua will remain very high".

Wasior Flood Blamed On Deforestation

By Nethy Dharma Somba and Markus Makmur

The Jakarta Post

9 October 2010

The flash floods in Wasior, West Papua, that have so far claimed 110 lives, were caused by environmental damage in upstream areas, where much of the natural forests had been converted for mining and plantation purposes, activists said Friday. In a joint press conference, activists from the Green Indonesian Institute, Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Pusaka called on the government to review policies on natural resource management to avert future ecological disasters.

"The ecological disaster in Wasior should serve as serious warning for the government to reassess its policies on massive exploitation of natural resources," Green Indonesia Institute chairman Chalid Muhammad said. "The policies must calculate the environmental impact of forestry activities," he said. Data from the Institute shows the annual deforestation rate has hit 254,460 hectares in West Papua province, where exploitation by forest concession holders (HPH), mining and illegal logging had increased during the autonomy era, including in Wasior's upstream areas.

Activities in West Papua are reportedly responsible for 25 percent of the country's deforestation, where as of 2010 the government had awarded licenses to 20 HPH holders with total concession areas of 3.5 million hectares, 16 permits to mineral and coal mining companies covering 2.7 million hectares, 13 licenses to oil and gas companies for 7.1 million hectares and 219,021 hectares for plantation firms, Chalid said. "If there is no review of existing licenses, the threat of future ecological disasters in West Papua will remain very high," he said.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the floods were caused by illegal logging, and added that he found some 200,000 square meters of illegal logs in Sorong, West Papua. Expansion of office and housing facilities into forest areas was another cause of flash floods in Wasior, which is part of the Wondoboi forest reserve, Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said. Indonesia has suffered a number of deadly flash floods in recent years, including one in Bahorok district, North Sumatra, that killed at least 157 people in 2003. Jatam coordinator, Andri S. Wijaya warned that aside from ecological disasters, the increased presence of extractive industries in West Papua would exacerbate conflicts with indigenous people in Papua.

Adianto P. Simamora from Jakarta contributed to the article.

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