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West Papua, the World’s First Conservation Province! by Susan Vulpas

It’s Now Official!

On 20 March 2019, the West Papuan Provincial Parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah, DPRD) passed a Peraturan Daerah Khusus Provinsi Papua Barat (Perdasus) – a regulation for the special autonomous region of West Papua, which commits the provincial government to sustainable development principles.

Note: The passage of this act is the culmination of many years of work by dedicated people and a milestone not just for West Papua but for the world.   The world owes a debt of gratitude to everyone at CI and the conservation community at large.  Additionally we would like to thank Pak Yance de Fretes–West Papua Senior Landscape Program Manager, Ibu Henny Widayanti–West Papua Government Liaison Coordinator, Mas Adi (IGG Maha Suasana Adi)–National Communications Manager and Nikka Gunadharma–West Papua Communication & Outreach Coordinator for their help with this post and getting the regulation passed.  A special thanks goes to Duma Tato Sanda photographer for the Sorong newspaper, Cahaya Papua. We have reported on the progress of this act previously. That post can be found Here.

Officials sign the document ©Duma Tato Sanda

This regulation will balance economic development and conservation as well as prioritize the needs of the local and indigenous communities. This umbrella regulation states that any future economic development in West Papua must adhere to the following four principles:

  1. Protect the environment for local and indigenous communities’ use to insure their livelihoods and traditions
  2. Protect and preserve biodiversity to maintain ecological balance and sustainability for humans and nature
  3. Ensure sustainable and wise utilization of natural resources for future generations
  4. Restore degraded or used important environments and improve ecosystem management

With these principles, the conservation province regulation affirms the government’s commitment to apply the concepts of conservation to any development or business proposal for the province. Under this regulation, the provincial government will involve stakeholders, investors and community participation to review proposed projects for environmental sustainability and indigenous people.

Official presentation of the Conservation Province declaration ©Duma Tato Sanda

So, what does this mean for West Papua? Well, it depends on what the final draft that was submitted for enactment contains – which has yet to be released to the public and pending legal review. It is expected to be released in the next couple months.

We do know, however, that the West Papua’s Education Agency will create a strategic plan to integrate conservation and environmental studies into the provincial curriculum for school students.

Essentially this regulation creates the basis on which further, more specific regulations can be enacted (e.g. regulations on green economy or rehabilitation of degraded lands). The government will also draft or revise various other documents to support the substances mandated through this Perdasus, including: a Spatial Plan (Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah, RTRW) and an Strategical Environmental Assessment Document (Kajian Lingkungan Hidup Strategis, KLHS) which will identify and outline areas for conservation as well as a complete Zoning Plan for Coastal Areas and Small Islands (Rencana Zonasi Wilayah Pesisir dan Pulau-pulau Kecil, RZWP-3-K). The latter is expected to go to the West Papua’s Parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah,DPRD) for approval after the upcoming presidential election in April 2019.

The Legislature voting on the act © Duma Tato Sanda

This Perdasus strengthens the 2015 Declaration of West Papua as a Conservation Province signed by former Governor Abraham Octavianus Atururi which provided initial support and recognized West Papua as Indonesia’s first “Conservation Province.” Recognizing the true ecological uniqueness of West Papua, with nearly half Indonesia’s biodiversity, 70% of Indonesia’s mangroves, over 1,800 reef fish species, 35% primary forest cover and 75% of the world’s hard coral species, former Governor Atururi had a vision to balance development and economic opportunities and mitigate risks of development.

The path to this regulation has been long and began in 2014 when Ketut Putra, Conservation International (CI) Vice President for Indonesia, presented CI’s work establishing MPAs in the BHS to the West Papuan Provincial Government. With their support, CI then led a working group to draft the conservation province regulation, socialize the concept with communities and stakeholders, and usher the regulation from idea to Perdasus, until it was signed by the West Papua’s Parliament. This passage of the Perdasus marks another step in the long road towards realizing the Conservation Province.

The press release announcing the passage of this act can be found in the News Room on the Conservation International website.  Here is the Link.

Susan Vulpas is Conservation International’s Marine Programs Coordinator, Indonesia.



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