Kalimantan groups call for sustainable development

Down to Earth No 67  November 2005

Four leading Indonesian NGOs organised a workshop and seminar in early October on the policy implications of natural resource exploitation in Kalimantan. The meeting was attended by representatives of various communities affected by large-scale plantation and mining projects plus 21 NGOs from Kalimantan and 2 from Sarawak. The following press release is the statement to the authorities which came out of that event.

Stop stealing the livelihoods of Kalimantan's people!

Kalimantan is being stripped of its natural resources. The government's violation of indigenous land rights through issuing permits for large-scale logging, oil palm plantations, fastwood plantations and mining has seriously disadvantaged indigenous communities. Kalimantan's natural resources are merely regarded as a source of cash, regardless of their important ecological, social and cultural contributions to the area's sustainability and to the livelihoods of Kalimantan's people.

This situation is made worse by the interaction between government corruption, weak law enforcement, misguided regional autonomy and sectoral policy-making, in addition to the recent increase in fuel prices.

An example of the environmental and social problems associated with the establishment of oil palm plantations is the use of fire for land clearance resulting in smoke pollution which causes national and international concern. The smoke problem is due to oil palm plantations' consistent use of local people to burn off the vegetation within their concessions. Other problems are land dispossession; the control of large tracts of land by a small group of people; unfair conditions for smallholders, including allocation of plots; increasing conflict; monopolistic price control for palm fruits; companies' inability to use unproductive land; and violation of official land use planning. Oil palm plantations also cause the loss of local knowledge and traditional skills. There is cultural erosion through gambling, drunkenness, criminality and prostitution - previously unknown in the indigenous community.

This multiplicity of problems leads us to conclude that the government is wrong in its policy to promote dependence on oil palm plantations and mining as a replacement for reliance on timber from the dwindling forests.

We therefore call on:

  1. The Indonesian president to cancel the Oil Palm Megaproject along the Kalimantan-Sarawak border on the grounds that it will damage the water catchment ecosystems for the Kapuas and Mahakam rivers. This border region is where water collects and forms streams which flow into the major river systems of West and East Kalimantan.
  2. The Indonesian president to instruct governors, district administrators and ministers to stop issuing new oil palm plantation permits in Kalimantan.
  3. The governors and district administrators of Kalimantan to tackle the social and environmental impacts resulting from oil palm plantations as a matter of urgency.
  4. The governors and district administrators of Kalimantan to repair and restore those parts of Kalimantan which have been ravaged due to policies on logging, mining and plantations which are exploitative and orientated towards economic benefit.
  5. Local and central government officials and company employees based in Kalimantan to respect fully indigenous peoples' rights.

We make these demands in order that Kalimantan can experience a process of sustainable development in which:

  1. Indigenous communities have the autonomy to manage their lives and their resources at village level;
  2. There is no violation of indigenous peoples' land rights;
  3. There is no more destruction of Kalimantan's environment;
  4. Land taken by the authorities and companies is restored to its rightful owners.

(LBBT, HuMA, WALHI, Sawit Watch, 10/Oct/05)