Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Plan to Develop Kalimantan Border Proposed

A very important article. Further proof not a single word uttered by any Indonesian government official concerning the environment can be trusted.


February 4, 2009 The Jakarta Globe

Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Plan to Develop Kalimantan Border Proposed

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono is urging other government departments to help shape a proposal to develop economic zones along the ecologically prized 2,000-kilometer-long border region between Malaysia and Kalimantan “as soon as possible.”

The call from the defense minister, who cites sovereignty threats from neighboring countries as one of the reasons behind the plan, is likely to cause outrage among environmentalists and seemingly flies in the face of the historic “Heart of Borneo” declaration signed by the heads of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia in 2007.

It was hoped that the declaration would lead to the conservation and sustainable management of what has been called “the most important center of biological diversity in the world,” covering approximately 220,000 square kilometers of equatorial rainforests — almost a third of the island.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting at the House of Representatives, or DPR, on Monday evening, Juwono said the ministry had already drafted a concept plan to establish economic zones along the land borders.

The draft includes plans to establish new plantations and construct new roads along the border.

The concept was presented to other ministers during a recent meeting at the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Juwono said.

“We have to carry it out as soon as possible, but need other ministries to cooperate with us,” Juwono said.

He said the plan would involve a huge amount of capital but added that it would be supported by local businesspeople willing to invest money in developing the border areas.

“But they would also develop the border areas to be more promising for the citizens living there,” he said.

An economic presence acted as a good marker of a country’s sovereignty along border areas and would act as a nonmilitary deterrent to any encroachment on Indonesian territory, Juwono said.

Theo L. Sambuaga, the chairman of House Defense Commission I, which oversees defense, backed the proposal, claiming on Tuesday that the government needed to address poverty along the border.

“We have to guarantee the welfare of our citizens living near borders, so they will never think to favor or move to the neighboring countries,” the lawmaker said.

In terms of the massive investment required to develop the border, Theo said the government could use the state budget allotted from the ministries of people’s welfare and public works spread throughout several ministerial plans.

“The government has allotted money for the Ministry of Education to build new schools. If it merged with the border establishment program, the school could be built there,” Theo said.

Environmental nongovernmental organization WWF said on its Web site that the 2007 declaration signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono formally ended plans to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan along Indonesia’s mountainous border with Malaysia.

The scheme, supported by Chinese investment, was expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares and would have had long-lasting, damaging consequences to the Heart of Borneo, the site said.

“The island is home to 13 species of primates, 150 species of reptiles and amphibians, over 350 species of birds and around 15,000 species of plants, and continues to be the source of many new
discoveries,” it said.