The Radar Sorong newspaper, on 19th April 2017, published a story about the Environment and Forestry Minister signing an agreement to change the land use designation an area of protected forest in Gunung Botak (bald mountain), Momiwaren sub-district, South Manokwari Regency, West Papua province.
According to the head of the Papua Barat Province Forestry Agency, Hendrik Runaweri, the local government recommended a change of land use designation, where 2000 hectares of protected forest around Gunung Botak would be classified as production forest, and the minister agreed to 40 hectares. It was also reported that this protected forest had its status changed to accommodate the interests of PT SDIC Papua Cement Indonesia, which has a cement works in Maruni, Manokwari Regency, West Papua Province, as a source of raw materials for cement production.
No information is yet available about how the local government or the minister managed to fulfill various conditions and procedures needed to change the land use classification of the forest, such as a study by an integrated team, a study of impacts and an agreement on boundaries involving local communities. Because of this, opinions have been voiced that the government has neglected to carry out these steps and has been overly accommodating to corporate interests.
In 2014, the Environment and Forestry Minister (at that time still just the Forestry Minister), issued decree SK710 about changes of use and function of the forest estate, and land being excluded from the forest estate, which included classifying Gunung Botak in Momiwaren sub-district as an area of protected forest. According to the Strategic Environmental Review in the Papua Barat Provincial Spatial Plan (2013), Gunung Botak is a hilly and mountainous karst area, and also a zone with a risk of disaster. In accordance with the Ministerial Regulation 17/2012 from the Energy and Mineral Resource ministry which establishes Karst Landscapes, this area of state forest should ideally be maintained with a classification of protected forest.
The Government policy to change the land use and issue a permit to exchange the forest area also disregards the land rights of the local indigenous communities and their right to participation. Community leaders and clans who claim ownership of the land, the Sayori, Ainusi, Tirirbo and Mukiri clans living in and around Siep, Yekwandi and Mawi village, have said that there has still not been any decision-making meetings with the government and companies to discuss the use of the Gunung Botak area. (Further reading (Indonesian): PT SPCI Membohongi Masyarakat Adat Pemilik Gunung Botak)
The local community explained the mythology of Gunung Botak as it related to their cultural identity and ancestors, such as the story of the Yaimeki cave or source. This is also their source of food and water catchment. This sort of knowledge and value is rarely considered when making decisions about development projects.
The government is using the pretext that the extraction of quartz sand from Gunung Botak would reduce the price of the Conch brand cement SDIC produces which currently costs 57,000 Rupiah per sack on the local market. Quartz sand is currently being brought from Kalimantan, which increases the price. However, the strange thing is, Conch cement produced in Manokwari is being sold in Tual (Maluku) at 46,000 Rupiah per sack.
This sort of change in policy which only takes into account the group’s interests and is based solely on a cost-benefit economic analysis will only bring conflict, injustice and discrimination, to the benefit of certain groups and individuals. Read More