Friday, 26 September 2008

Palm oil / Malaysian businessmen and orangutans - a recipe for ecological disaster.

I appreciate most people will not be familiar with a city called Pontianak, in the northwest corner of Borneo and close to the border with Sarawak. Pontianak is where any number of wild caught orangutans remain illegally trapped in terrible cages - many photos of which appear in this Blog. Local so-called conservationists refuse to help them, as do larger groups like WWF, FFI, UsAid, Nature Conservancy. In fact it's easier to say who is still trying to help all these illegally caged orangutans: Nature Alert and with the support of Orangutan Appeal UK - the Centre for Orangutan Protection is active within Indonesia.

What follows is a current media article about Pontianak. It is a place I have come to know quite well!

September 26, 2008 10:56 AM

Experience Shadowless Sun At 'Equatorial City'

By Amrizan Madian
PONTIANAK, Sept 26 (Bernama) - Located on the Equatorial line at 0'0 N, 109'20 E, Pontianak which is also known as the Equatorial City has unique attractions for visitors to the capital of West Kalimantan.

To reach Pontianak, travelling on land from Kuching takes some eight hours while a flight from the state capital of Sarawak is only about 30 minutes.

Jakarta is an hour's flight away from Pontianak. Spread over an area of 107.2 square km, Pontianak has a population of close to one million, the majority of which is Malay Muslims (65 per cent) while the rest are Chinese, Dayak and other ethnic groups.

The founder of this 237-year old city is Syarif Abdurrahman Al-Qadri, who is of Arab descent.LEGEND OF PONTIANAKIt is believed that the name Pontianak, which means vampire in the Malay folklore, originated from the legend when Syarif Abdurrahman encountered this ghoul when he sailed along Sungai Kapuas, which at 1,143 km long, is the longest river in Indonesia.

According to the legend, Syarif Abdurrahman had to fire his cannon to chase the vampire away, and he also decreed that the spot where the cannon ball fell was the place where he would start his sultanate. Hence, the cannon ball went over the spot where Sungai Kapuas meets Sungai Landak, a place now known as Beting Kampung Dalam Bugis Pontianak Timur or Pontianak.

Today, the era of modernisation has swept through Pontianak and turned it into a city choked with commercial centres and modern buildings as well as shopping complexes and hotels.Sudio Subandi, a bank employee here, told Bernama that Pontianak is the economic nerve centre for West Kalimantan.

"All major economic activities are conducted in Pontianak and for a long time, the city has become the nerve centre for all activities, after Jakarta," he said.EQUATORIAL MONUMENTHe said foreign tourists from Sarawak in Malaysia are regular visitors to this city, apart from those who fly in from Jakarta and other Indonesian provinces.

A key attraction in Pontianak is the Equatorial Monument that became the city's iconic attraction since 1928, that splits Pontianak into two.A Dutch geographer erected this monument in 1928 and 10 years later it was refurbished by Indonesian architect Sylaban.

A spectacular phenomenon happens at the Equatorial Monument twice a year, the Vernal Equinox on March 21-23 and the Autumnal Equinox on September 21-23.Known as the phenomenon of the shadowless sun, during these times, everything on the location around the zero point will cast no shadow on the ground for at least five to 10 minutes.

"On March 21-23 and Sept 21-23, every upright structure like a pole at the Equatorial Monument would have no shadow for between five and 10 minutes", said a souvenir stall operator at this site.

TOURISM ATTRACTIONS. Among the tourism attractions in Pontianak is pusat wisata, which is a nursery for planting the aloe vera plant, located at Jalan Budi Utomo. Here, tourists can have a closer view on how aloe vera, which originated from the Canary Isles, North Africa, is cultivated.

Pontianak is considered ideal for the growing of aloe vera as it gets more sunlight in a year compared to other areas in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Pontianak is the favourite destination of Malaysians, particularly those from Sarawak, who wish to experience West Kalimantan's mini Jakarta.

A visit to Pontianak is considered incomplete without dropping in on the shopping havens at Jalan Jen Sudirman, Ayani Mega Mall as well as the traditional markets at Pasar Flamboyan at Jalan Gajahmada, Pasar Dahlia at Jalan H.Rais A.Rachman and Pasar Mawar at Jalan Wolter Monginsidi.

EDUCATION CENTREPontianak boasts the presence of Universiti Tangjungpura (UNTAN) which has a student population of some 15,000.UNTAN Assistant Rector, Prof Dr Saeri Sagi, said the university has eight faculties comprising that on law, economics, education, technical, political science, agriculture, mathematics and medicine.

Bambang Hermanseh, a political science undergraduate at UNTAN, said he is honoured to study at the university despite coming from a remote village in Sambas district.

"In Indonesia, it means a lot when given the opportunity to pursue an education, what more if it is at university level, just like the Equinox at the Equatorial City," said Bambang.He hopes that more universities would be set up in Pontianak as the increasing number of students here applying for tertiary-level education is on the rise. Otherwise, these students may have to seek their tertiary education in Jakarta.

INVESTMENTS. According to Malaysian Consul in West Kalimantan, Zaini M. Basri, the cordial relations between Sarawak and West Kalimantan paves the way for more investments for both Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said many Malaysian investors came to West Kalimantan to expand their operations particularly in the oil palm and coal-mining sectors.

Among the plus factors that draw Malaysian investors here is the cheap labour as well as vast land areas ideal for plantation operations.

"There are some Malaysian companies carrying out joint venture projects with the local investors since several years ago with their turnovers for last year reaching RM2 billion," he said.

Zaini said 4.5 million hectares of land in this province is being turned into oil palm estates and he expressed confidence that more Malaysian investors would take the opportunity to invest in West Kalimantan.-- BERNAMA