Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 02/09/2010
Patih Laman, an 89 year-old tribal leader, on Saturday tried to relinquish his Kalpataru, Indonesia’s most prestigious environmental award, as a show of disappointment with the government’s inaction toward checking deforestation in his area.
Laman said he ran out of money to pay his hotel room in Riau, where he had spent three days waiting for an audience with Riau governor Rusli Zaenal, through whom he would have consigned his trophy to be sent back to Jakarta.
Also a recipient of a WWF award for his conservation effort, Laman wanted to show his disgust over rampant logging in and around Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, where the Talang Mamak tribe has lived for generations.
Laman had hoped local environmental activists would help pay for at least another two days at the hotel so that he could see the governor on Monday, but nobody offered him assistance, detik.com reported.
Laman received the Kalpataru award in 2003 from then president Megawati Soekarnoputri for his effort in protecting the remaining forests in Rakit Kulim area, about 300 kilometers from Riau’s capital, Pekanbaru.
“Reality makes me sick. We don’t have the forest anymore. I don’t know the fate of our community in the years to come,” the Laman told reporters in Pekanbaru.
Laman has managed to protect and conserve 1,813 hectares of Penyabungan and Penganan forests, the rest has been cleared and converted into massive plantations.
Three of Talang Mamak’s communal forest areas, known locally as Rimba Puka, consist of 104,933 hectares in Tunu River, 98,577 hectares in Durian Jajar and 21,901 hectares in Kelumbuk Tinggi Baner, all of which have been converted into oil palm plantations.
He said the community had reported forest conversion to the government but had not received a response.
“I want to discuss the problem with the governor,” Laman said as quoted by Antara news agency on Saturday.
“I am not weary from travelling the 300 kilometers to Pekanbaru, but from the heavy burden of failing to protect the forest.”
Talang Mamak is one of the very few tribes living in isolation in Riau’s jungles.
They used to be a self sufficient community that grew sialang, trees that attract honey bees. From one sialang tree, they would collect about 150 kg of honey to sell per harvest. Unfortunately, there are now only 10 sialang trees left in their forest.
The Kalpataru is the most prestigious award presented to people or communities that have contributed to preservation and improvement of the environment.
So far, 264 people have received the Kalpataru Award since it was launched in 1980 during the Soeharto administration.
Last year, the government for the first time revoked a Kalpataru award from the elders of the Negeri Enam Tanjung community in Riau last year after the recipient built a 3-kilometer road across a protected forest in Kampar regency, Riau.
The government has been under pressure to protect the nation’s forests, which suffer losses of over 1 million hectares per year due to illegal logging, forest fires and massive forest conversions.
The high deforestation rates and forest fires have put Indonesia as the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.
The government has launched a number of programs to save the forest and mitigate climate change including a campaign by the Forestry Ministry pledging to plant 1 billion trees this year.
Indonesia is home to 120 million hectares of rainforest, making it the world’s third-largest forested nation.