Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Environmental activists have objected to plans to use Kayan Mentarang National Park as a pilot project for offsetting carbon emissions, citing the impact to the area’s indigenous residents.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) warned that the way of life of tens of thousands of forest dwellers would be threatened if the park, which straddles the districts of Nunukan, Malinau and West Kutai in East Kalimantan, was used in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) schemes.
“We reject any REDD+ programs taking place in the park, because there is so much at stake,” Izal Wardana, executive director of Walhi’s East Kalimantan office, said on Tuesday.
“Such programs will further marginalize the indigenous people in the forest to the extent that they won’t be able to continue with their way of life. That’s because one of the conditions of these programs is a prohibition on any human activity in the forest, which is the same as throwing these people out.”
There are an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Dayak tribesmen living in the 1.3-million-hectare park, which sits on the border with Malaysia.
Izal said that although REDD programs were a good thing for the environment, they constituted a kind of “sin atonement” for developed nations under which indigenous people in forest countries would suffer.
“There’s no doubt it’s good for the protection of wildlife and plant species in Kayan Mentarang, but we need to take into account the lives of the people who also live there,” he said.
“Cutting them out could spark long-running social problems that in the end could have an impact on the environment.”
Representatives from Dayak tribes have previously also spoken out against REDD projects, saying they invariably get no say in how the projects, and hence their ancestral lands, are managed.
The central government has said it will begin REDD pilot projects in Kayan Mentarang this year and has vowed to invest the money from the schemes back into local communities.
Topan Amrullah, deputy head of Malinau district, said the plans had been finalized and the programs would proceed.
“We’re convinced of the project’s benefits to both the environment and the indigenous people,” he said on Tuesday.
His district alone, he said, which is home to one million hectares of the national park, stood to gain “millions of euros” from REDD projects with European partner governments over the next several years.