Indonesia attack shines a light on controversial road project

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first_imgConstruction on a section of Indonesia’s Trans-Papua highway was suspended after at least 17 people were killed; conflicting reports state the victims were either contract laborers or Indonesian soldiers.In a recent paper, researchers warned the highway threatens to increase social conflict in Indonesia’s restive Papua region, while also degrading New Guinea Island’s ecosystems and the health of its residents.The Indonesian government bills the project as a lifeline of economic development for an impoverished region, but many indigenous Papuans see the project as a means to facilitate troop movements and resource exploitation. Violence in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua has stalled a massive infrastructure project that researchers have separately warned may threaten the island’s ecological health and the livelihood of its residents.At least 17 construction people were killed on a stretch of the Trans-Papua highway in Nduga district on Dec. 2, with conflicting reports stating the victims were either civilian works or members of the Indonesian military. The attack, claimed by the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNBP), followed the anniversary of West Papua’s declaration of independence, which was submitted — and rejected — on Dec. 1, 1961.The Trans-Papua highway is the latest major development project by the Indonesian government to come under scrutiny in the country’s half of the island of New Guinea. While the government bills the ambitious road as a lifeline of economic development for a long impoverished region, many native Papuans see it as a means to more quickly move troops around to quash uprisings while opening the island for resource exploitation.Three major hotspots of deforestation (in circled areas)  are expected if the Trans-Papuan Highway is constructed. Image courtesy of William Laurance.Regardless of the motivation for the highway network, its creation will almost certainly accelerate degradation of Papua’s forests and increase social conflicts, say researchers from James Cook University in Australia in a report published earlier this month.“We’ve assessed big development projects around the world, and this is one of the most worrying in terms of its overall social, economic and environmental costs,” said William Laurance, a distinguished research professor at James Cook University and one of the paper’s authors.“In addition to all the environmental damage, the Trans-Papuan Highway doesn’t make economic sense … The roads would be extremely expensive to build and maintain because they’d have to traverse some of the steepest and most difficult terrain imaginable.”No passage exists through much of the corridor planned for the highway, and researchers warn that opening up access to these areas will result in increased deforestation, increased conflicts over competing land claims, and increased development of mining concessions, in particular those located inside Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The park is the largest protected area in Southeast Asia, and the only one in the world that spans a continuous range of ecosystems between high-alpine glaciers and a tropical marine environment. One of the world’s largest gold mines, Grasberg, operated by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan, operates just outside the park’s northwest corner in the Maoke Mountains. Much of the area surrounding the mine has been designated as mining concessions, 19 of which overlap with Lorentz National Park.Planned roads and mining concessions in the Lorenz World Heritage Site. The roads are part of the Trans-Papuan Highway. Image courtesy of William Laurance.While many of these mining claims are still in the exploration phase, the researchers suspect the 211 kilometers (131 miles) of new road planned within the park will all but ensure development within the protected area proceeds, following a pattern seen repeatedly throughout the country.At the southeastern reaches of the highway, the proposed road corridors connect several areas of forest that have remained intact thanks to their inaccessibility. Where roads already exist nearby, deforestation has been accelerating, with large areas experiencing greater than 75 percent forest cover loss over the last 20 years.Much of the land at the road’s southern terminus comprises peat forest and probable peat swamp, large swaths of which were designated in 2010 as part of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). That 12,000-square-kilometer (4,600-square-mile) mega project was established to increase Indonesia’s food and biofuel security, but has been criticized as an ill-considered land grab that ignores the rights of the indigenous people while running counter to Indonesia’s own commitments to not develop on peatland.The authors of the paper cite MIFEE as another instance where the central government has failed to consider the ecological nuance of an area, or the realities of the on-the-ground local priorities.Despite the nation’s 2013 legal recognition of the rights of indigenous people to their customary forests, competing claims to the land in Papua are far from settled. The researchers warn that rapid road development before resolving these issues will exacerbate political unrest, and possibly even undermine the economic reasons for building the highway.Road construction in the highlands of Papua. Image courtesy of William Laurance.“By cutting through the traditional lands of so many different indigenous groups, the roads will almost certainly provoke anger and anti-government sentiment — and that’s the last thing Indonesia needs,” said Mohammed Alamgir, a co-author of the study from the University of Bangladesh.  “These top-down initiatives by central governments tend to do poorly because they don’t take into account local cultural sensitivities and ecological dynamics.”Failing to consider these cultural sensitivities is especially risky in a place like Papua, where anti-government and separatist sentiments have for decades routinely boiled over into public outrage and violence.The western half of the island of New Guinea was formerly a Dutch colony. The Dutch rejected the 1961 declaration of independence by the local people, a move repeated by Indonesia when that country annexed the province in 1963. In late 2017, a petition to the United Nations demanding a vote on independence was smuggled across the province gathering 1.8 million signatures, accounting for 70 percent of Papua’s population.Many Papuans still hold celebrations on Dec. 1, despite Indonesian laws prohibiting them. Some reports suggest the recent attacks on the road builders occurred after one of the workers photographed locals holding a flag-raising ceremony on the illicit holiday. The TPNBP is the armed wing of the Free Papua Organization (OPM), for decades the region’s main separatist group. The OPM says most of the construction workers killed were  members of the Indonesian military, while official sources describe the dead as contract workers from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.Potholes in Papuan roads caused by road construction in high-rainfall areas. Image courtesy of William Laurance.Editor’s note: William Laurance is a member of Mongabay’s advisory board.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Biodiversity, Deforestation, Drivers Of Deforestation, Environment, Forests, Governance, Indigenous Peoples, Mining, Protected Areas, Rainforests, Roads center_img Article published by Isabel Estermanlast_img

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