The Indonesian province of West Papua has been declared a conservation province — the first of its kind in Indonesia and worldwide. The designation is not only symbolically important; it also serves to preserve this unique ecosystem, being located next to rainforests. It is also crucial to ocean conservation, being one of the epicentres of marine biodiversity, and containing more species than anywhere else on Earth.
The declaration was signed on Monday, 19 October 2015 by the Governor of West Papua, Abraham Ataruri, in the presence of Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo in the provincial capital of Manokwari.
Mr Ataruri said that the declaration would help them to manage their natural resources so that future generation could enjoy them.
Supported by Conservation International, World Wide Fund for Nature and The Nature Conservancy, the local government in West Papua has set up a working group whose members represent various civil and political organisations. This is to ensure that the new legislation is implemented and would lead to meaningful action for the people and environment.
The new regulation comes at a time when West Papua is in the process of developing its economy. The province has vast natural resources and is home to the Grasberg Mine, the world's largest gold and copper mine. There has already been nickel mining on the small islands close to coral reefs. On the other hand, West Papua is also Indonesia's least developed province, and there are also serious issues about the status, future and treatment of its indigenous population.
Conservation International has pointed out in its strategic recommendations for the conservation province that the well-being and customary rights of the Papuan people must be protected. This is just as important as the establishment of a comprehensive network of marine-protected areas and stopping deforestation.
"West Papua should be developed in a way that the people will benefit," said Minister Tjahjo Kumolo at the signing.
"West Papua must not lose its identity, its customs and traditions. The beauty of the environment must be maintained and preserved," he added.
26th October 2015
West Papua, Indonesia