Merauke, Jubi – South Papua Youth Movement for Indigenous Land Care (GPPSPTA), a group of young people in South Papua Province's Merauke Regency, voiced the dangers and threats of deforestation to the community and local government.
GPPSPTA Coordinator Mario Mere in a written statement received by Jubi on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, said that in commemorating the World Forest Day on March 21, his party held a discussion on deforestation in the South Papua region.
"We held the discussion at LBH Papua Pos Merauke and it was supported by the Pusaka Foundation. In the discussion, we agreed that forests had a very important role in the climate crisis and global warming," said Mere.
In general, Mere said, the natural forest in the southern part of Papua has been widely cleared for oil palm plantation, namely in Merauke Regency (Bupul, Muting District) and partly in Boven Digoel Regency (Asiki and surrounding areas).
Deforestation was caused by, among others, conversion of forest areas especially for state agendas such as the National Strategic Program, National Economic Recovery, Special Economic Zones, and food security.
"Conservation and protected forest areas in Indonesia are currently under threat. The level of seriousness of the government in this matter is questionable because there are still policies that do not favor the protection and sustainability of natural ecosystems including peatlands," he said.
The threat of deforestation in Merauke in particular, said Mere, began in 2007. The Merauke Administration at that time proclaimed that year as the year of investment. Merauke was used as a rice barn to meet the needs of rice in Papua under the program MIRE (Merauke Integrated Rice Estate).
Furthermore, in 2010, the central government through the Ministry of Agriculture launched the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) in Sirapuh hamlet, Semangga District. The birth of this mega project stems from MIRE.
"The presence of this large-scale investment has led to degradation of natural resources and the environment because it is accompanied by an uncontrolled conversion of forests to agricultural land," he said.
"The Minister of Environment and Forestry has indeed issued Decree 168 of 2022 on the 2030 Indonesia's Forest and Other Land Use Net Carbon Sink Operation Plan for climate change control. The goal is to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation. But in our opinion the Ministry's steps will have no impact to inhibit the rate of deforestation, especially in Papua," he added.
Mere said forests were very meaningful to the people of Papua. In the southern region, the people are still very dependent on nature and treat the forest as a "supermarket".
"We ask the government to immediately curb companies that have had their concession licenses revoked, so that forests can be restored to their former glory. The state must also respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to control, regulate, manage and utilize customary forests, by producing and implementing policies and programs for indigenous peoples and fair and sustainable management of customary forests," added Mere. (*)