Deforestation During the Covid19 Pandemic in Papua

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Deforestation activities for the oil palm plantation business are increasingly widespread in Papua. Based on the observation of Pusaka using satellite imagery maps and field reports, it was found that the area of ​​forest lost during the January-May 2020 period, estimated at 1,488 hectares or more than 2084 times the area of ​​the soccer field. The extent of deforestation is expected to continue to grow.

The largest deforestation rate is in the area of ​​oil palm plantation company PT. Medcopapua Hijau Selaras in Manokwari Regency, covering an area of ​​372 hectares; PT. Internusa Jaya Sejahtera in Ulilin and Eligobel Districts, Merauke Regency, covering 372 hectares; PT. Megakarya Jaya Raya in Jair District, Boven Digoel covering 222 hectares; and PT. Subur Karunia Raya in Teluk Bintuni Regency, covering 110 hectares.

Some of these companies are in the public spotlight due to issues of obtaining licenses by means of violating the law, transferring land rights and providing unfair compensation, environmental pollution, and so on.

We have not found the documents and commitments of these companies regarding sustainable management of plantations as stipulated in various international policies and statutory provisions, as well as voluntary standards, namely: respecting human rights, protecting high conservation value forest areas and having high carbon stock, and sustainable production. These companies have the potential to violate human rights and threaten environmental sustainability.

This forest destruction occurred in the midst of the Covid pandemic19 and attacked many people, even in residential areas within the forest area. At Boven Digoel, it was found that patients infected with Covid19 were unlicensed miners operating in the interior of Kawe. It is suspected that Corona virus penetration is delivered by workers who have just come from outside to reap profits from illicit and risky businesses. This will risk threatening the safety of the Indigenous of Papua who live in villages around the concession area and in forest areas that are far from adequate health access.

Theguardian.com media (June 2020) cited a WWF report that said 60-70% of new diseases that have emerged in humans since 1990 originated from wildlife. During the same period, 178 million hectares of forest had been cut down, equivalent to more than seven times the area of ​​Britain.

Experts provide Covid19 warning signals and the structural cause of this viral disease comes from agro-industrial systems that take place on a large scale for capital accumulation. This investment drives deforestation and causes disease. (Wallace, 2020). Forests that have a variety of functions are cleared in such a way that pathogens stored in forests are contagious and spread throughout the world. The economic activities of trade and the expansion of capital in various forms became a medium for transmitting this disease, from human to human, rapidly and widely.

In the case of ‘People’s Mining’ without permission, the Governor of Papua has issued a letter to the regent stopping mining activities during the Covid pandemic19 and conducting a rapid test on miners. But what is really needed is how the country can save people and the environment by making systematic changes and corrections to the agro-industrial system to avoid the threat of social and environmental disasters.

Ank, June, 2020

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