Posts tagged papua

National Geographic features Papua forest threats

National Geographic has published a video called Deforestation Fear In Indonesia on their website. In it, Greenpeace campaigner Bustar (who is currently on the Esperanza) tells how Papua’s forests are under threat. He explains how companies are destroying Papua’s forest, including palm oil producers. If the government can’t stop deforestation, it could all be gone in 10 years.

What’s very interesting is the appearance of director of the Indonesian forestry ministry, Tony Suhartono. He said: “If all the stakeholders agreed to a moratorium, with minimum impact for economic and regional development, than let’s find the way for that. If the only solution is just a moratorium without having any options, that will be difficult.”

For me, it’s important for the government to make a decision for the nation and their people who live in the forest. That’s why we’re asking Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to declare a moratorium on all deforestation. Write to him now and tell him to make the right decision.

posted by Arie in Jakarta


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Our man in the sky

Shaun in flight © Greenpeace/Rante

Shaun in flight © Greenpeace/Rante

Someone who has taken part in all the research flights our helicopter Tweety has carried out is, of course, the pilot. Shaun (or Dingo as he’s known about the ship) has flown every mission in both Indonesia and during the previous leg in Papua New Guinea.

As a result, he’s seen a considerable amount of New Guinea and is able to draw comparisons between the two sides of the border.

Listen to the interview below to hear about Shaun’s experiences flying over New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.

Who have you been taking out on the flights and what have they been going to see?
Partly it’s been Bustar, the forest campaigner. He’s been coming out along with journalists to basically assure himself of what they’ve been told about certain areas, whether logging is being carried out or whether it is actually pristine forest, and basically documenting that. And also I’ve been taking out the cameraman and the videographer for documentation purposes.

You also flew over the forests of Papua New Guinea when the Esperanza was there a few weeks ago. Are there any differences you’ve noticed between the two sides of the island?
The main differences I’ve noticed between Papua New Guinea and Papua is the huge difference in the population. In Papua New Guinea, there are a lot more indigenous villages scattered throughout the forest and along the river ways. Whereas here in Papua, they seem to be more moved into settlement areas and into more modern housing – tin roofs, straight lines in streets. It was quite unusual, really.

What has been the most memorable aspect of your flights so far?
Most memorable thing has to be scenery – it’s incredible. Of course, Papua New Guinea has mountains and everything, and in Papua you have the same mountains and the same forest, but there’s a lot less logging activity on this Papuan side. But also the coastline on the Papuan side has been very beautiful – pristine beaches, coral reefs, and islands.

How different is it to land the helicopter on the ship compared to dry land?
There’s a big difference. Wind always plays a huge importance, but generally it’s a solo act on the ground – you know where your wind is coming from and you land accordingly. But with a ship, it’s also a moving object and it has to be positioned properly for the helicopter. And then hopefully the ground doesn’t move around too much underneath you with the swell.

So far on this trip it’s been quite easy because it’s flat seas here but I have landed on the ship when it’s been pitching and rolling quite badly. And the most daunting thing isn’t putting the helicopter on the deck, it’s when you’re down and then still be moving madly around, it’s just totally unnatural. Sometimes even now I’ll land and the helicopter will sway from side to side and it makes you think, “Woah, what’s going on?” It certainly is a different situation.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Video: Investigation Indonesia’s last forest frontier

To show off the most interesting footage from the helicopter trips over Papua, we’ve compiled the video below. It’s narrated by Bustar, who went on many of the flights, and he explains why protecting the forests of New Guinea is so important. Enjoy.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Feet on both sides of the border

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

We’ve been sailing past and through some of the most wonderfully named parts of the world – Flores, Butu, Ceram, Halmahera and their associated seas – which for me conjure up images of trading ships at full sail, laden down with cargoes of nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

It’s a very Eurocentric view, of course, and the spice trade was often at the expense of the local population, but I can’t help finding the associations with exploration and uncharted waters bewitching. (And for a very readable account of that period in history, you could do worse than track down a copy of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton.)

But while these exotic locations drift by, we’re preparing for our arrival in Jakarta next week, and the long journey is also giving me a chance to catch up on some of the interviews I conducted between Jayapura and Manokwari.

One of the more interesting and colourful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this expedition is Dorothy. She’s a Greenpeace forest campaigner from Papua New Guinea and joined the Esperanza in Port Moresby in August. Dorothy left the ship last weekend in Manokwari but before she disembarked, I wanted to find out why it was important that she stay on the ship over the border into the Indonesian half of New Guinea.

Listen to the audio clip below and hear about Dorothy’s links to both Papua and Papua New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.

You’ve been on the Esperanza for both the Papua New Guina leg and some of the Indonesian leg. Why was it important to you to be on both sides of the border?
It’s been very important for many reasons. The first one being, as a campaigner, it’s good to understand that this island is rich in biodiversity and it’s one ecological system. The island has similar problems on both sides of the border and as a campaigner it’s important for me to understand what is happening here as well as in Papua New Guinea.

Also, as we go to international conferences, we tend to talk about the island as one, the island of New Guinea. It’s the world’s third largest rainforest and it’s important to think of it as a whole rather than as in parts. It has also enriched me personally to see the struggle of my colleagues on this side of the border, and the issues that they have here.

And you have quite strong personal ties to Papua, as well.
Personally, this visit has been a little bit emotional for me. Partly because I see the beauty of my island, being a descendent of people from the Papuan side. I’m actually from Papua New Guinea but my grandmother is from this side of the border, and it has been emotional for me to see the connections of my people in Papua to the environment, and to the forest especially because most of them are still dependent on it for their livelihood.

I have family on this side who live under a different political system, who live under different land and forest use laws. While it’s emotional, it’s also interesting to learn about their rights and it makes me more determined to see things in a way that unite us as indigenous people of this island rather than as people from two different countries with different legal and political systems.

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Who’s who in palm oil, part two: commercial interests

See that yellow and black blob? That's Switzerland, about the same size as the area waiting to be converted into palm oil plantations

See that yellow and black blob? That Switzerland, about the same size as the area waiting to be converted into palm oil plantations

As we saw from the helicopter flights yesterday, palm oil is beginning to make its presence felt in Papua and West Papua. So far, we’ve surveyed plantations in two areas – Lereh near Jayapura last week and of course the one near Teluk Bituni from yesterday – and compared to the vast monocultures in Sumatra and Kalimantan, these are pretty small affairs. But their presence here is a reminder that huge areas of forest have already been carved up on paper between the Indonesian government and palm oil companies, and will be carved up for real if we don’t take action.

While only 60,000 hectares of palm oil have been planted in this region, the government has handed out permits covering four million hectares (that’s just a bit smaller than Switzerland), and at the moment much of this is densely forested. Palm oil producers like Sinar Mas, Medco, Korendo and Asian Agri have been given the rights to move in and expand their huge agribusiness operations but they’re not moving in en masse, at least not yet.

Part of the reason for their hesitation is the lack of infrastructure in the region, and large chunks of land in their concessions are, at present, remote and inaccessible. So the companies are engaging in a spot of land banking, buying up the rights while they’re still cheap and waiting for things like transport and labour resources to improve before moving in to convert the land into plantations.

Another reason is the current log export ban in Papua which the governor Barnabas Suebu implemented – with no legal way to sell timber from cleared forest areas, there’s no incentive for logging companies to move in. But the lack of resources available to police this export ban plays in the favour of loggers willing to flout the law, and as we witnessed this week, logging does still continue.

Of course, this insatiable expansion wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the increasing demand for palm oil around the world. It’s used in a bewildering range of supermarket products, not to mention the growing biofuel market. So as well as the work we’re doing here in south-east Asia, we’ve been leaning on big consumer companies in Europe and the US – companies such as Unilever – to put pressure in turn on the palm oil suppliers to stop trashing the forests.

I mustn’t forget to mention the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil which features producers, suppliers, and consumer companies on its roster of members. The RSPO is supposed to promote the environmentally responsible production of palm oil, but weak standards and regulation enforcement mean some of its members (hello, Sinar Mas) are still blithely tearing up forest and peatland areas across Indonesia with no consequences to fear.

It’s a complex tangle and negotiating practical solutions is equally knotty. So rather than descend into protracted discussions that will drag on while trees are being replaced by oil palms, the immediate answer is to stop all deforestation in Indonesia so everyone has some breathing space and there’s time to work on long-term fixes.

I heard an analogy the other day which explains this perfectly. If you’re in a leaky boat, you don’t continue sailing and patch it up as you go; you pull into harbour and carry out a proper repair job. And that’s what we need the government here to do – put everything on hold before we all sink.

posted by Jamie, on board the Esperanza

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Does money really grow on trees?

A palm oil plantation in West Papua, Indonesia © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Without proper international funding, Indonesia's remaining forests are at risk of being consumed by oil palm plantations © Greenpeace/Sharomov

We’ve now crossed the administrative border between Papua and West Papua and, for the past couple of days, we’ve been anchored on the west side of Teluk Cenderawasih, a large bay which cuts into the Indonesian half of New Guinea, helping to create the distinctive ‘bird’s head’ feature. On the other side of the isthmus – the ‘bird’s neck’ – is Teluk Bituni and the largest mangrove area in south-east Asia.

It also features a mill making wood chips from the mangrove trees, and the Tweety team flew over this morning to confirm the mill was still in operation. Further along the bay, they also surveyed an existing oil palm plantation where, although it is still being farmed, it doesn’t look like there are currently any attempts to expand into the surrounding forest. That’s good news, but how do we make sure the forest remains intact? Even if a protected area was created to cover every square inch of forest, there is not enough money or resources to properly enforce that protection and make sure no one sneaks in to start up a logging operation.

The solution is to make the rich countries of the world help fund the protection of forests, not just in Indonesia but also in the Amazon and the Congo basin. It’s something Barnabas Suebu, governor of Papua, is attempting on Yapen Island which we flew over on Saturday, as well as in other parts of Papua.

There, a management plan is in operation which ensures the forest and its biodiversity are protected, and the people living on the island are working together with the local government. The traditional ownership rights of local people are recognised and documented by demarcating the boundaries of their land and to make sure they can still utilise the forest for their own needs, the community is involved at every level of the plan.

A woodchip mill in West Papua, Indonesia © Greenpeace/Sharomov

A woodchip mill in West Papua, Indonesia © Greenpeace/Sharomov

The plan needs more funding though, and the Papuan provincial government is looking to the international community to provide the cash. In return, the donor countries can count the emissions saved by preserving the forest in their own emission reduction figures.

This is similar to the funding plan we have proposed, called Forests For Climate, and we want to see it included in the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol currently being negotiated. The details are complex but the principle is simple: treat the protection of the world’s forests as an international concern, not just the problem of those countries which have forests.

And it wouldn’t cost that much. It’s estimated that halving emissions from deforestation would cost $10-15 billion a year which sounds a lot, but that’s peanuts compared to the $250 billion President Bush is today planning to pump into US banks to keep them afloat. The plan could also start protecting forests very quickly – as early as next year if there’s enough support.

The mechanism Greenpeace is proposing is fund-based rather than market-based – leave it to the free market, and we run the risk of governments trying to buy their way out of the climate crisis. It would result in a sort of large-scale carbon offsetting, where rich countries fiddled their books by purchasing credits for forest protection without doing anything to reduce their own emissions at home. A kind of carbon credit crunch, if you like.

And that’s a crucial point: as well as protection for indigenous rights and biodiversity, any funding mechanism has to operate together with deep emissions cuts through greater energy efficiency and generating clean, renewable energy.

Part of the purpose of our tour is to promote the Forests For Climate plan. When we reach Jakarta, we’ll be holding a meeting with the governors of Papua and Aceh provinces, Indonesian ministers and representatives from international governments to discuss it and get their support. And to make sure there’s still enough forest left to save, we still want the Indonesian government to call a moratorium on all deforestation while the details of how to permanently protect the forests are hammered out.

Read more about the Forests for Climate plan on our international website.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Surveying the forest from on high

Bustar returning from one of research trips © Greenpeace/Rante

Bustar returning from a research trip© Greenpeace/Rante

For several days now, we have been making flights over the forests of Papua in our helicopter. Here are the highlights – good and bad – of what we have seen so far.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Today we are flying using our Greenpeace helicopter to cover one of the biggest palm oil operations in Papua. We are supposed to be flying with some VIPs – the head of parliament’s Member of Papua Province and the head of forestry planning office of Papua – but at the last minute they were not available. A journalist from the major news paper in Indonesia, Media Indonesia, did fly with us, and they will publish a big story.

Our flight today covers the palm oil plantation in Lereh, near Jayapura, owned by Sinar Mas Group. Sinar Mas is the one of the biggest palm oil companies in Indonesia where they already have more than one million hectares in concessions. In Papua, Sinar Mas is planning to develop almost two million hectares palm oil plantation plan and most of this area is still intact forest.

What we see is a surprise because we found new areas of Lereh being cleared. Three months ago we flew over the same area and found a very small operation clearing the forest. Today, we found at least seven pieces of heavy machinery actively clearing in the middle of forest with lot of sago tress (the Papuan local food) in the same area; we also found some areas that had just been burnt. Burning the forest is the one of simple way of clearing the forest but it also releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

We still have many more flights during the transit to Manokwari when we expect to see more logging activity in Papua forest.

Bulldozers drag felled logs through the forest near Sarmi © Greenpeace/Rante

Bulldozers drag felled logs through the forest near Sarmi © Greenpeace/Rante

Thursday, October 9 2008
Our first flight was at 9am, flying around the logging area operated by PT Bina Balantak Utama (BBU) around Sarmi, around 150 miles from Jayapura, where we found some heavy machinery  cutting down the forest. This company is operating legally but we don’t know about the details of their operations inside the forest. There are lots of old logging roads in this area but the ecosystem has already recovered smoothly. Two years ago we flew over this area and found a massive logging operation logging but now it seems like the operation is slowing down, probably because of the log export ban by the governor of Papua.

During the second flight, we covered an area with good, pristine forest. We flew with two Papuan journalists who are travelling with the Esperanza. The area we saw is already given to a palm oil company which is part of the Asian Agri Group. The forest is still intact and from the helicopter we can see it’s an area with high conservation value. It really should be protected and it’s a big challenge for us to make sure that it is.

Friday, 10 October 2008
Mamberamo is the biggest river in Papua, and nearby we can see the Mamberamo Foja hills where in 2005, a team sponsored by Conservation International found several new species of animals and plants. Some small villages could be seen from the air – there are not so many people living in the forest, but even so every part of the forest is owned by someone in the indigenous community.

Almost all of the Mamberamo area is covered by pristine forest.  There was some logging around five years ago, which we can see from an old logging road – the Papuan forest can naturally recover very quickly. In areas like that where there has been some logging, the government claims that, as it has been ‘degraded’, it can be converted to use for other purposes, but there is the possibility to restore that area to be good forest again.

There is only one logging operation in that area, owned by Wapoga Mutiara Timber, and we saw plenty of logs ready to be transported elsewhere, and logging roads are also spreading.

A rainbow arches over an area of rainforest in Papua, Indonesia &copy Greenpeace/Rante

A rainbow arches over an area of pristine forest in Papua, Indonesia© Greenpeace/Rante

Saturday, 11 October 2008
The morning flight started at 7am, with Ardlies the photographer and Hernan the videographer on board to cover the Waropen area, where at least three logging companies have permits to operate. All of that area is still intact forest and there has probably been some logging in the past but it has already recovered, so there is not so much we can see in that area. But there is work being carried out on a new road as a part of the Trans Papua Highway.

The afternoon flight covered Yapen Island where the Papua provincial government is planning to have a pilot project on forest management and also related with carbon money. Again, most of the area is still intact forest – there is logging company present but it’s not active anymore, and also we found a timber mill owned by Korean company which is still in operation but at the moment only on a very small scale operation.

The amount of intact forest we have seen is very encouraging, but we need to make sure it remains that way and is protected. Sadly, we expect to see more areas of clearance during the coming week.

posted by Bustar, campaigner, on board the Esperanza

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