Optimizing West Papua`s abundant natural resources

Optimizing West Papua`s abundant natural resources

Illustration. Foreign tourists wander by boat while enjoying the natural beauty around Fiainemo, Raja Ampat, West Papua. (ANTARA PHOTO/Saptono)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian province of West Papua is known for its agriculture, mining, forestry products, and tourism that should be optimized for improving the welfare of the local community.

Situated at the west side of Papua Island, West Papua covers the area of Papua`s Bird Head and other smaller islands surrounding the province.

Pearls and seaweed are mostly produced in the Raja Ampat Islands, while the only traditional weaving industry is also situated in this province in South Sorong District.

In addition, tourist attractions, including the Cendrawasih Bay National Park located in Teluk Wondana District, Lorenz National Park, Raja Ampat Islands, and Meyah Waterfall, are among the mainstays of West Papua Province.

The Government of West Papua Province is currently planning to optimize the utilization of its potential natural resources for lighting programs in remote and isolated areas.

According to West Papua Energy and Mineral Resources Office Chief John A. Tulus in Manokwari, the potential of water and high temperature will be utilized to support the community`s welfare through the development of new and renewable energy-based electricity infrastructure.

Tulus remarked in Manokwari on Wednesday that West Papua Governor Dominggus Mandacan was keen to ensure that the hinterlands and small islands were able to receive electricity similar to those living in urban areas.

State electricity company PT PLN has implemented the Bright Indonesia Program, and in the areas of Papua and West Papua, the program will be applied through the Bright Papua Program.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has launched a program called Bright Indonesia aimed at increasing the electrification rate in the eastern part of the archipelago over the next few years.

Through the program, Indonesia aims to boost its electrification rate to 97 percent of the country`s total population by 2019 by building new power plants, with a total capacity of 35 thousand megawatts.

The program is expected to provide electricity to underdeveloped villages in Indonesia`s eastern provinces, such as Maluku, North Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, Papua, and West Papua, where several people still do not have access to electricity.

Power plants in Indonesia`s eastern provinces will rely on new and renewable sources of energy to generate electricity, with more than 300 thousand megawatts accounted for throughout the archipelago.

Eastern Indonesia mostly comprises islands. Instead of installing cables from one island to another, local sources, such as renewable energy, can be used.

Hence, efforts to optimize the utilization of potential natural resources, implemented by the local government, will be undertaken to welcome the national and regional programs.

There are still several potential natural resources in West Papua that are quite strategic, but they are yet to be utilized optimally to boost the people`s welfare.

"Coal exploitation activities are being conducted in the Sorong area though not yet optimally. The Maruni cement plant in Manokwari, so far, utilizes coal from Sorong as a power station, and that is what we expect," Tulus remarked.

He noted that another mineral that holds potential is nickel in the Raja Ampat District, but infrastructure, such as a smelter, must be built by the nickel company.

To optimize the utilization of natural resources and empowerment of the local people, the provincial government of West Papua plans to hold an international conference on biological resource varieties, ecotourism, and creative economy.

Head of the West Papua Research and Development Center Charley Heatubun remarked in Manokwari recently that delegations from several countries as well as local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are expected to participate in the conference on Oct 7-10 this year.

The conference aims to demonstrate to the central government and other countries that West Papua is serious in applying an environmental conservation program, Heatubun noted.

Currently, the West Papua Development and Research Center is coordinating with a coalition of local NGOs, World Wildlife Fund, International Conservation, Asia Foundation, and other NGOs, the embassies of Norway and Britain, as the donor countries, for the conference.

"The targets we would like to achieve are to revise the area and layout plan to reflect West Papua as a province that is committed to environmental conservation," Heatubun stated.

In addition, the center wants West Papua to have a national park or new preserve area and to prepare an intensive scheme of fiscal and fund transfers as an incentive for the conservation of forests and varieties of biological resources in West Papua.

Heatubun said he is looking for a change in the paradigm, especially in the central government, that tropical forest conservation, both in West Papua and Papua, is a capital for development.

Thus, the size of virgin forests, which are still well-maintained and preserved in the two provinces, would be included as an indicator for calculating the general and special allocation funds for the provinces.

"This would serve as a fiscal incentive to be offered to the regional administrations by Jakarta to support sustainable development, as we know that sustainable development goals have been ratified and have become a commitment of all countries in the world," he noted.

Results of the conference will be reported by the governor to the central government and will be presented at the forthcoming meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to be held in Bali on October 12-13, 2018.

(O001/INE)
(T.O001/A/KR-BSR/O001)

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