One of the world’s most biodiverse regions, West Papua has been declared Indonesia’s first-ever ‘conservation province’ after the provincial parliament approved legislation.
The newly established West Papua Conservation Province is based on a first-of-its-kind legal framework that puts sustainable development and conservation at the forefront of any economic activity or development, according to Conservation International. Situated at the western end of the large island of New Guinea, West Papua covers the two western peninsulas of Bird’s Head and Bomberai, as well as nearby islands. It neighbours the Indonesian province of Papua, itself west of Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern side of the island.
West Papua has a population of 870,000 and is home to nearly 1,800 species of fish and 75 per cent of the world’s hard corals. With 90 per cent forest cover, it’s home to one of the world’s most important intact rainforests, much of which remains unexplored.
The West Papua Conservation Province will protect the most intact marine and terrestrial ecosystems remaining in Indonesia, promote the development of sustainable livelihoods, and recognise the rights of indigenous peoples. The legislation comes more than three years after West Papua declared it would set out to become a conservation province and is a significant shift in moving towards more sustainable development. Pieter Kodjol, Chairperson of the West Papua Regional Representative Council, said: “The special regional regulation on sustainable development is to ensure that development in West Papua is carried out in accordance with environmental rules while ensuring community well-being.”
Conservation International has worked in the province for well over a decade and consulted with then-Governor Abraham Ataruri on the initial declaration in late 2015.
Jennifer Morris, President of Conservation International, said: “In vital biodiverse places like West Papua, the stakes are high and the margin for error slim, so reconciling development and conservation is something we must get right.
“Now the world can look to West Papua for a new global standard. This legislation helps demonstrate that protecting the earth’s ecosystems unlocks value for sustainable development and livelihoods. It’s a blueprint for development and conservation that benefits everyone on earth.”
A key part of the new policy includes the empowerment of Papuans through the protection of natural resource rights and provision of equitable and sustainable development. About 80 per cent of Papuans live rurally and rely on nature for their livelihoods.