Papua biodiversity, where to go?

Agustina Y.S. Arobaya & Freddy Pattiselanno

New Guinea Island (Papua New Guinea and Papua, Indonesia) is the second largest island after Green Land. Papua consisted of 404.660 km2 land areas which 80% was tropical forests. This island in one hand, riches in natural resources includes mining, oil, gas as well as forest and sea. While on the other hand, its forest and sea are home to the flora and fauna that reflects the biodiversity richness of Papua.

The latest prediction by Conservation International indicated Papua has approximately fifty percent of Indonesian biodiversity compiled by 146 species mammals, 329 species reptiles and amphibians as well as 650 birds.  It has also been estimated that Papua may contain from 20,000 to 25,000 species of vascular plants. An astonishing 60-90% of them may be endemic to this region. Furthermore, about 1,511 fish species are found around the Bird Head Peninsula alone.  Its unique ecosystems provided favorable places where the endemic flora and fauna were distributed comprehensively.

The interaction between human and their environment reflected by a high reliance of local communities to plants and animals extraction for subsistence purposes, which is well adjusted by the practice of traditional wisdom of local ethnic groups as a part of their traditional conservation practice that passed from their predecessor. However, greater access to forest and coast areas, the use of modern technologies, and the increasing commercialization are critical factors driving overexploitation and unsustainable use of biodiversity.  Many are concerned that extractive use of living resources, has been and continuous to be biologically unsustainable, known as “empty forest” syndrome (Redford, 1992).

Attention has been given by the involvement of some NGOs in biodiversity and conservation which is more actively focuses on the rescue and protects the flora and fauna. Some international NGOs have been noticed worked together with the government in Papua since 80s such as World Wildlife Fund which followed by others: Conservation International, Natural Resource Management, The Nature Conservancy and local NGOs which give more attention to the flora and fauna conservation in Papua.

In addition, under Indonesian law enforcement, we had approximately 150 existing national laws and regulations for wildlife species and habitat protection. Furthermore, we are also involving and actively participating in many international conventions on biodiversity conservation, specifically in the Convention on International Trade for Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) by Presidential Decree No. 43/1978 and the Convention on Biological Diversity by Law No. 5/1994.  Though, it is necessary, regulation and control itself is not sufficient condition for sustainable use.

The leading response to these threats since the late 19th century has been the creation of protected areas.  Until 2002, there are about 29 legally protected areas (terrestrial and marine) found in this island.  Currently, along with the issue of marine resources conservation, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and local governments declared some Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) known as Kawasan Konservasi Laut Derah in Papua such as in Kaimana, Abun district at Sorong, Ayau-Asia at Raja Ampat and Biak Numfor.

However, this strategy can have substantial negative impacts on poverty issue by local people.  The eviction of former occupiers or right holders in land or resources can cause the exacerbation of poverty, as well contravention of legal or human rights.

It is clear, those who gathered from the forest and coast sites are a minority— the most marginalized and traditional forest and coastal dwellers that truly depend on the resource.  Therefore, if their activity upon the forest and coast sites will be restricted, and their access to the resource is prohibited, we should provide them with alternative livelihood.  It is unfair to control their usage on the resource where they have lived and interacted since their ancestors’ time.

It is widely accepted that biodiversity loss and poverty are linked problems and that conservation and poverty reduction should be tackled together. However, success with integrated strategies is elusive. So, what we can do in dealing with this complicated situation?

The following alternative might be considered in a way of biodiversity use and biodiversity conservation.

Firstly, biological sustainability is not alone a sufficient condition for use.  Therefore, provide economic or social incentives should be considered, because conservation is also considered a tool for achieving poverty reduction, with the sustainable use of natural resources being a foundation of strategies for achieving poverty reduction and social justice.

Secondly, as the principle of “ecosystem approach” adopted by Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is widely ratified, those who interested in resource conservation, whether their focus is human welfare or biodiversity conservation should be concerned with addressing sustainable use rather than dismissing it as impossible to achieve.  Conservation in response to this position tends toward the maintenance of yields of harvestable species and ecosystems rather than the preservation of biodiversity.

Thirdly, a more harmonies understanding of the different concepts that are currently encompassed within the term sustainable use should be implemented through the adoption of the term ‘incentive-driven-conservation’ which suppose to have high return to local communities.

The links between biodiversity and livelihoods, and between conservation and poverty reduction, are dynamic and locally specific.  The elimination of poverty and the preservation of biodiversity are two distinct objectives. Each may be driven by different moral agendas, but there is considerable overlap in practice.

The larger challenge is to allow human society to meet its potential and share the fruits of economic growth while sustaining a biosphere that not only sustains full ecological functions but retains its living diversity.

About the authors:

Agustina Y.S. Arobaya (Faculty of Forestry Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari); Freddy Pattiselanno (Faculty of Animal Science, Fishery and Marine Sciences Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari)

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