Jakarta – East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor has called on the central government to be more mindful of the lush forests covering parts of the province as Jakarta moves forward with its long-term plan to relocate the country's capital city to the region.
Isran addressed his concerns over the environmental impact of the imminent capital relocation during a meeting with the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) at the East Kalimantan governor's office in Samarinda on Monday.
"I will personally stop [the new capital construction] if it damages the forests," he said after the meeting as quoted by kompas.com.
The environment is a vital component of the lives of East Kalimantan residents, therefore it has to be protected, he added.
"It's better that the capital doesn't end up being relocated to East Kalimantan if it only brings destruction to local forests," Isran said, adding that the province had previously committed to protecting the environment in several international declarations, including the New Green Growth Pathway in 2016.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced in August last year that the province's North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara regencies would host the country's new capital, replacing the overpopulated and sinking Jakarta.
Kutai Kartanegara regency is home to a 61,850 hectare forest called Bukit Soeharto. Through Agriculture Ministerial Decree No. 818/1982, late former president Soeharto named the location the Bukit Soeharto Conservation Forest, which then covered 27,000 ha. The government subsequently expanded the conservation area over the years until it covered 61,850 ha in 2004, when the Environment and Forestry Ministry declared it the Bukit Soeharto Grand Forest Park.
Known as a Taman Hutan Raya (Grand Forest Park) in the province, the sprawling Bukit Soeharto is also home to local wildlife conservation groups such as the Wanariset Samboja Center of Orangutan Rehabilitation and Reintroduction. In addition, Bukit Soeharto is also home to Mulawarman University's forest education site.
According to experts, Bukit Soeharto's current status as a national forest park could save the government a considerable amount of money allocated for land acquisition, since the entire area is state-owned. (rfa)