from Bintang Papua
February 15, 2014
The Justice and Peace Secretariat (Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian – SKP) of Timika Diocese in Papua are worried about how the environmental impacts of PT Pusaka Agro Lestari clearing forest for an oil palm plantation could affect the survival of the Kamoro people along the coast of Mimika Regency.
The co-ordinator of SKP in the Timika Diocese, Saul Wanimbo, told the Antara News Agency on Thursday that clearing the forest near to Iwaka and as far as the headwaters on the Timika-Paniai road to make way for PT PAL’s oil palm plantation could affect the Kamoro people’s survival.
The Kamoro people have always relied on sago palms, canoes and rivers, the key elements of their continued existence.
“I can’t imagine how it will be for the Kamoro people living along the shore in five to ten years time. They are bound to suffer as a result of the presence of oil palm upstream,” said Saul.
He said that the SKP Timika Diocese was in the process of compiling the necessary data and information to hold a seminar on the effects of oil palm investment in Mimika, to which they would invite experts and government bodies.
Based on the experience of Keerom, Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong, where oil palm has been developed since the 1980s, he said, this industry brought absolutely no economic benefit to Papuan indigenous communities.
“We want to ask what benefits oil palm has brought to build up the economy of Papuan indigenous people over the years? Not one Papuan has seen a positive economic improvement as oil palm plantations have moved in,” said Saul.
According to him, the lack of economic benefits which indigenous Papuans have received from oil palm is due to the Papuan methods of farming, which are still very traditional if compared to other areas. Farmers in Papua, he says, are not yet familiar with techniques of permanent cultivation, and still keep shifting their cultivated plots from one area to another.
As well as this, he said, the majority of ethnic groups in Papua still rely foodstuffs that they obtain from the natural environment .
If forest areas are destroyed, felled in the interest of new oil palm plantations, then the ecosystem which supports the people’s livelihood will be damaged or even lost for ever.
“We are asking that local government act wisely and treat this problem seriously. Maybe the effects are not yet visible, but in a few years we will reap the problems. The government must be firm and put a stop to this investment if it doesn’t want the people to suffer”, said Saul.
He added that SKP groups throughout Papua have declared war on oil palm investment because it also provides no benefits for forest conservation.
Despite several workshops and seminars to which experts and decision-makers were invited, local governments in Papua seem incapable of taking on investment in the guise of oil palm. According to data from the Mimika forestry service, PT PAL plan to develop a 38000 hectare oil palm plantation from Iwaka District to West Mimika District.
The company is in possession of a cultivation rights permit (HGU) from the government and a permit to operate from the Mimika Bupati since 2007.
English Translation by awasMifee
[awasMIFEE note: In 2011 PT Pusaka Agro Lestari was bought by the Noble Group, a company which trades in agricultural commodities, and has only recently started investing in oil palm plantations. PT Pusaka Agro Lestari is its second plantation in Papua, after PT Henrison Inti Persada in Sorong]