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West Papua lost 748,640 hectares (1.85 million acres), or 2% of its old-growth forest, between 2001 and 2019, according to the study published in the journal Biological Conservation. This was largely due to the growth of plantations, primarily oil palms, and the government’s push for infrastructure development in the region. Oil palm and pulpwood plantations accounted for 208,223 hectares (514,500 acres) of the deforestation during those periods, or 28% of total deforestation. A study, by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia, an NGO, attributes 22,009 hectares (54,400 acres) of forest loss between 2001 and 2019 due to the construction of Trans-Papua Highway. The Road passes nearby at least seven conservation zones, including Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, causing the loss of the function of protected areas as the support system of their surrounding ecosystems. It notes that 22% of this deforestation in an area of 4,906 hectares (12,100 acres), occurred in protected conservation zones. According to spatial analysis by the NGO Auriga Nusantara, Lorentz lost 7,644 hectares (18,888 acres) of forests in the past two decades, with an increasing deforestation rate.

A 202-km (126-mi) stretch of the highway that’s built through the national park has devastated parts of the protected area. Among the species living in the national park is the endangered dingiso tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus mbaiso).

In July 2021, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Fuzhou, China urged the Indonesian government to shut down constructing the Trans Papua Road in West Papua. The call released after the organisation highlighted the highway construction damaged the flora and fauna ecosystem in Lorentz National Park. Extraction industries, particularly palm oil plantations and mining projects remain a major threat to indigenous peoples and the ecosystem in West Papua.

The environmental destruction has occurred through the economic interests of both Indonesia and foreign companies. Besides losing natives land, the presence of these companies are causing negative outcomes, such as flooding and landslides. Many Papuans are threatened with huge tracts of land that have been granted as concession to timber companies. These companies were established in the early 1980s, and increased rapidly in palm oil production sites during the recent years, which is now considered a major cause of deforestation, and linked to the human rights concern affecting indigenous Papuans living nearby plantations.

The presence of these companies remains the biggest threat to primary rainforests in West Papua, and thus to West Papua’s ability to thrive and continue their culture and way of life, that is to determine their own destiny. As mentioned previously, destroying a people’s physical environment is a form of at least cultural genocide and carries a very real threat of physical genocide as well.
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Benny Wenda


New Guinea

Oil Palm Plantation


West Papua

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