May 10, 2009

PROTECTED AREA Vs ROAD UPGRADING; A BATTLE OF STAKEHOLDERS; a portrait of environmental injustice

The Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) of Aceh, District NGOs, Government agencies of Aceh, District student society of South Aceh, Bupati (Head) of South Aceh, South Aceh legislative members were sitting together to discuss the upgrading road plan which will ‘fragment’ the Tripa swamp, of South Aceh. The meeting was led by Governor and it was resulted in a physical fighting between student association member + local NGOs activities vs Walhi officer.

It was a fight between a national NGO and local NGO. A fighting of local communities’ interest vs national NGO’s. In broader scale, fighting of international NGO, represented by the Walhi, vs local communities. It is a conflict of environmental protection vs regional development.

•The Bulusema was a village but now it becomes a small town. This town is isolated due to the absence of a sufficient transportation access. Part of the town is surrounded by the The Singkil (sanctuary) swamp, one of Aceh protected areas.
•The Minister of Forestry has passed a Ministerial Letter allowing upgrading old road to the town. The endorsement process of this letter took years due to an environmental issue.
•Walhi has reported the Minister to the National Police for being violating to Conservation acts.
•The Bulusema exists administratively prior to the enactment of the swamp as a conservation area.


Which one should be supported:
The Bulusema and its people or the swamp and its wildlife? International campaign on protecting the degraded sites or regional development?

Both of the issue should be supported. We need to protect the swamp and prosper local people. The existing road was built during the Dutch colonialism era so the swamp defragmentation process is an ancient fact. To achieve those objectives, environmental injustice should be abolished.

Many environmental injustices are happening in Aceh. Many other ‘Bulusema’ exist. Pameu county, of Aceh Tengah district, is an old administrative area since the Dutch era, but the land is being categorized as protected forest because it locates in hilly region. Where is the forest gone….? Go there, you will find a town, a sub-district.

Ketambe, of Aceh Tenggara (southeast) district, a well known site for orangutan rehabilitation and research centre station, there are some old villages. Now the villages are becoming a county. Administratively, the villages change to be a new sub district. Local poor people are not allowed to utilize and converse forest but the orangutan is being supplied with milk. The forest missing, the orangutan population decreasing. Environmental injustice.

International NGOs did a structured campaign encouraging cancelation of upgrading dutch-road in all around Leuser Ecosystem region, known as the Ladia Galaska,. The impact, local people must pay 2-4 times fortheir transportation cost from and to other cities. Local product becomes less competitive while imported product become more expensive. An injustice fact of environmental issue.

Leuser ecosystem is important to reduce the impact rate of global climate change for global sake. Stop the road upgrading. Rarely NGOs talk and campaign on local poverty mitigation. That all environmental injustice.

Maintain the coverage of the Ulumasen Forest! You will earn $7/ha/year but if you let us, NGO and overseas company, manage it for you! Stop degradation! Stop forest conversion! Stop production forest degradation! No palm estate! But they never say that oil palm’s NPV could be worth 30 times higher than that of natural forest.

International NGOs officers in Indonesia are being paid as expatriate, get paid in dollar but expend in rupiah. Local officer being paid in rupiah, costs in rupiah. Environmental NGO’s staff got better living standard than local people in and around forest area. All are environmental injustice.

What about if the Walhi and other NGO’s officer, the expatriate as well, shift their daily life with local poor people, or forest farmer?


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