20 May 2007

Ecotourism in 'Lord Jim' country

Duncan Graham, Contributor, Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan

There's a lot of curiosity and much activity among the mud and mangroves at a Kahayan River inlet in Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan.

Six carpenters are building cabins atop a stripped-down, 20-meter former cargo boat bought by two foreigners with a dream. They want to introduce serious ecotourism to the huge but almost empty province -- and by doing so save the forests and the Dayak who depend on them.

The inlet, with two primitive hand-cranked steel cable winches, is a local bush version of a dry dock though heavy rains have flooded the site.

That hasn't deterred the workers who are racing to get the craft looking presentable for the May 23 celebrations of Central Kalimantan's 50th anniversary (see sidebar).

When the cheering has faded and the bunting been pulled down the engine will be installed, heaved in by muscle power, for this open-air boatyard has few facilities. Then the fittings will be finessed to ensure they're of a standard to meet the needs of international clients.

The Dayak Hope will be a floating boutique hotel with five double cabins. It will be capable of sailing into the upper reaches of the province (known locally as Kalteng), giving ecotourists the chance to see distant Dayak villages, wild (not rehabilitated) orangutans scrambling through the treetops and tropical flora and fauna.

For businesswomen Lorna Dowson-Collins and Gaye Thavisin this is a major undertaking. They plan to put the Indonesian part of Borneo on the world map of discerning tourists looking for experiences they can't get in Amsterdam or Adelaide.

The couple have already sunk more than US$60,000 (Rp 550 million) of their own money into the plan, which includes development of a river port in Palangkaraya, more floating hotels and extensive marketing overseas.

"Gaye and I have gone beyond just ooh-ing and aah-ing and thinking how great it would be to open up the Kalimantan environment to others," Lorna said.

"We're now up to our necks in a venture that's driven by our vision to protect Kalteng's unique forests and create new sources of income for the local jungle-dwelling communities."

Up to their necks? An outside observer might think this a defective metaphor. Add the crocodiles of business envy, the leaches of bureaucratic interference, the everyday hazards of remote-area life made doubly difficult in the tropics, and the fickleness of the tourist industry -- and you can see that on the Richter risk scale this show is quaking.

Lose one visitor into the swirling brown crocodilian waters or have a hard encounter with a hornbill and the word will move at warp-speed through the Internet.

Fun in frontierland? Sure -- but only if it comes with air-conditioning and cell phone access.

Boat-based tourism

This is "Lord Jim" country, the land made famous in Joseph Conrad's classic. In the story, a disgraced young seaman shrinks from society to live with the Dayak. He helps better their lives but is killed after making a second error of judgment. (Read the book if you want to know the first.)

Fortunately, neither Lorna nor Gaye are dewy-eyed business maidens. Both have sweated long enough in Indonesia to know that foreigners giving birth to a new idea won't have an easy labor, whatever soothing sounds are made by politicians who say overseas money's welcome, but won't ease the traumas of investment.

Lorna grew up in Jakarta where her father was a doctor at the British Embassy until he was kicked out of the country. Before that happened the family went sailing most weekends through the Thousand Islands just offshore from the capital -- an experience that helped develop Lorna's love of adventure.

Dad was expelled allegedly for treating Indonesians and referring patients to Singapore surgeons rather than the locals. Whatever the reason it gave young Lorna insights into the way things are sometimes done in the Republic.

She went on to study anthropology and work in the UK on international development programs, but was soon back in the archipelago.

In Indonesia she's been a consultant with the Australian aid agency AusAID in Aceh, and with a non-government organization (NGO) in Kalimantan on training projects and developing business enterprises.

Gaye is an Australian who formerly managed the Kalimantan Meeting Center (KMC), a three-star hotel and restaurant at Rungun Sari, about 36 kilometers northwest of Palangkaraya. She now runs a foreign investment company, PT Kalimantan Tourism Development.

Both are members of the Subud community, a spiritual movement started in Java early last century. They live at Rungun Sari where a magnificent meeting hall has been built and is available to all faiths.

"My river journeys whilst working for the NGO took me to the heart of the local people's lives and their rapidly depleting forests," Lorna said.

"Rivers are still the main transport system linking remote villages, a fascinating but uncomfortable affair. This led me to think: What could be better than a boat hotel with comfortable cabins and a restaurant viewing deck to enjoy the passing, peaceful days of village and jungle life?"

Indeed. Great idea but nothing stands in isolation. The current investment buzzword is "infrastructure" meaning roads, ports, airports, hotels and other public facilities have to be fixed first.


There aren't too many roads in Kalteng -- the biggest province in Borneo at 154,000 square kilometers. However, by Indonesian standards the main links are in reasonable condition.

Borneo isn't jam-packed Java: There are only 10 million in the whole Indonesian section of the island, with maybe less than 250,000 in Palangkaraya.

The locust swarms of Hondas and Yamahas have yet to plague the highways and the air is breathable outside the smoke season when farmers set fire to the forests in defiance of edicts from Jakarta.

There's no international airport so connections -- frequently late -- have to be made through Jakarta or Surabaya. Foreigners remain a rarity -- only 2,000 visited last year -- and not all Palangkaraya hotels are either comfortable or welcoming to outsiders.

The plan is to run Dayak Hope from the river close to the KMC hotel while port facilities in Palangkaraya are upgraded. Then, if all goes well, boats two and three will be built. These will probably be custom-built rather than converted.

The original budget of Rp 280 million for the boat alone has already doubled. Other investors have come to the rescue so the project is still afloat and heading for commercial operation in September -- with a plan to break even by the second year.

Mike Johnson, a marine environmental anthropologist from East Java, has been hired to advise on the work, though the design came from a French marine architect.

Johnson reckons the cost of building a floating hotel from the keel up will be little more than buying and reshaping an old boat -- and a lot easier.

The proposed tariff is Rp 4.3 million per person for a three-day, all-found river trip. The partners reckon this will attract a market between backpackers who'll rough it anywhere, and the top-end tourists who want five star toilets.

Lorna put together a business plan entered it in an international competition and won a useful Rp 74 million for her proposal. Through this she met Dutch travel agents interested in supplying management skills, clients and maybe investment.

"Our first planned tours will be along the Katingan River into the newly established Sebangau National Park, one of the last surviving peat swamp forests in Kalimantan and home to the largest known remaining orangutan populations in the world," she said.

"Unfortunately, illegal logging and forest fires continue to threaten the survival of the park.

"Our overall aim is to promote ecotourism in Kalteng as a viable way of protecting the forest and promoting the welfare of local communities through creating an effective strategy for economic growth.

"We'll provide 25 per cent of our boat tour profits to finance village ecotourism and conservation programs using microfinance loans to establish home-stays and train guides.

"The communities depend on the natural resources for their livelihoods. When use is sustainable the balance in the ecosystem is maintained. But where income is low the local people are forced to exploit.

"Poverty is a large threat to biodiversity. To conserve nature it's important to deal with poverty alleviation.

"We believe that our boat will be the vehicle to develop a social enterprise that can make a real difference."



Deforestation: The Hidden Cause of Global Warming


By Daniel Howden

The Independent UK

Monday 14 May 2007

In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth's equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.

The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.

Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.

"Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change," said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.

Scientists say one days' deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.

No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. "The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse," said Mr Mitchell.

Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in
the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.

Indonesia became the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world last week. Following close behind is Brazil. Neither nation has heavy industry on a comparable scale with the EU, India or Russia and yet they comfortably outstrip all other countries, except the United States and China.

What both countries do have in common is tropical forest that is being cut and burned with staggering swiftness. Smoke stacks visible from space climb into the sky above both countries, while satellite images capture similar destruction from the Congo basin, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African
Republic and the Republic of Congo.

According to the latest audited figures from 2003, two billion tons of CO2 enters the atmosphere every year from deforestation. That destruction amounts to 50 million acres - or an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland felled annually.

The remaining standing forest is calculated to contain 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere.

As the GCP's report concludes: "If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change."

Standing forest was not included in the original Kyoto protocols and stands outside the carbon markets that the report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed to this month as the best hope for halting catastrophic warming.

The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the "single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions".

International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate
inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.

Forestry experts and policy makers have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try to put deforestation on top of the agenda for the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, this year. Papua New Guinea, among the world's poorest nations, last year declared it would have no choice but to continue deforestation unless it was given financial incentives to do otherwise.

Richer nations already recognise the value of uncultivated land. The EU offers €200 (£135) per hectare subsidies for "environmental services" to its farmers to leave their land unused.

And yet there is no agreement on placing a value on the vastly more valuable land in developing countries. More than 50 per cent of the life on Earth is in tropical forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet's surface.

They generate the bulk of rainfall worldwide and act as a thermostat for the Earth. Forests are also home to 1.6 billion of the world's poorest people who rely on them for subsistence. However, forest experts say governments continue to pursue science fiction solutions to the coming climate catastrophe, preferring bio-fuel subsidies, carbon capture schemes and next-generation power stations.

Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. Hylton Philipson, a trustee of Rainforest Concern, explained: "In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security - while there's money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it's obvious that the forest will take the hit."

Sign the Acadian Forest Declaration/
Signez la déclaration sur la forêt acadienne:
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
180 St. John Street
Fredericton, NB E3B 4A9
Tel: (506) 458-8747
Fax: (506) 458-1047
Email: forest@conservationcouncil.ca


18 May 2007

Degradasi hutan penyebab Kutai Timur banjir


Samarinda (ANTARA News) - Kerusakan hutan merupakan salah satu
penyebab terjadinya banjir yang melanda empat kecamatan di pedalaman
Kabupaten Kutai Timur, Kalimantan Timur, dalam dua pekan terakhir.

"Pada bulan ini, daerah pedalaman dilanda banjir karena tingginya
curah hujan di kawasan itu yang menyebabkan sungai meluap, ditambah
kondisi hutan di DAS (Daerah Aliran Sungai) Kelinjau yang cukup
memprihatinkan, " kata Bupati Kutai Timur Awang Faroek Ishak, ketika
dihubungi dari Samarinda, Selasa.

Ia menjelaskan bahwa degradasi hutan telah terjadi di DAS Kelinjau
terkait dengan gundulnya kondisi hutan akibat adanya ekploitasi dan
perambahan di kawasan tersebut. "Saya perkirakan kerusakan di sana
mencapai sekitar 10.000 hektare," imbuh dia.

Hal tersebut juga menyebabkan sungai-sungai lain, yang masih merupakan
cabang sungai Kelinjau, meluap dan membanjiri empat kecamatan di

Daerah tersebut antara lain Kecamatan Telen, Muara Calong, Muara
Bengkal, dan Muara Wehea.

Ia mengatakan Pemerintah Kabupaten Kutai Timur tengah menyalurkan
bantuan bagi para korban bencana banjir.

Sementara itu, warga Desa Nehas Liah Bing di Kecamatan Muara Wehea
mengatakan banjir kali ini adalah banjir yang terparah sejak musibah
serupa pada 1983.

Pasalnya, banjir sudah tiga kali melanda desa sejak awal bulan ini
karena meluapanya Sungai Wahau. Dan banjir tidak seperti biasanya yang
cepat surut sekitar empat hingga lima hari.

"Yang terakhir ini lebih parah daripada yang biasanya karena baru
surut hingga seminggu. Hari ini mulai surut sekitar 50 Cm," kata
Christ Djoka, seorang warga.

Ia mengatakan enam desa di Kecamatan Muara Wehea, termasuk Nehas Liah
Bing, terendam dengan ketinggian air sekitar 1,5 meter. Akibatnya
aktivitas warga terganggu dan sekolah terpaksa diliburkan.

"Warga banyak yang terpaksa berdiam di rumah karena untuk menjangkau
rumah lain dan keluar desa hanya bisa menggunakan sampan," kata Chris
yang juga penggiat lingkungan dari The Nature Conservancy di Nehas
Liah Bing.

Ia juga mengatakan masyarakat banyak yang mulai mengalami penyakit
kulit antara lain, diare dan penyakit kulit akibat musibah itu. (*)

Copyright © 2007 ANTARA


03 May 2007

Indonesia dicatat dalam Buku Rekor Dunia Guinness tahun 2008 sebagai penghancur hutan tercepat

Jakarta, 3 Mei 2007 –– Edisi mendatang dari Buku Rekor Dunia Guinness
akan memasukkan Indonesia sebagai negara dengan tingkat kehancuran
hutan tercepat di antara negara-negara yang memiliki 90 persen dari
sisa hutan di dunia. Indonesia menghancurkan luas hutan yang setara
dengan 300 lapangan sepakbola setiap jamnya. Sebanyak 72 persen dari
hutan asli Indonesia telah musnah (1) dan setengah dari yang masih ada
terancam keberadaannya oleh penebangan komersil, kebakaran hutan dan
pembukaan hutan untuk kebun kelapa sawit (2).

Rekor Dunia Guinness yang dianggap sebagai otoritas global pemecahan
rekor, telah memberikan konfirmasi pada Greenpeace bahwa rekor yang
patut disayangkan ini akan muncul dalam buku rekor dunia tahun 2008
yang akan diluncurkan di bulan September tahun ini (3).

Pencantuman rekor dalam buku Guinness akan tercatat sebagai berikut:
"Dari 44 negara yang secara kolektif memiliki 90% hutan di dunia,
negara yang meraih tingkat laju deforestasi tahunan tercepat di dunia
adalah Indonesia, dengan 1.8 juta hektar hutan dihancurkan per tahun
antara tahun 2000 hingga 2005—sebuah tingkat kehancuran hutan sebesar
2% setiap tahunnya atau 51 km2 per hari" (4).

"Sangatlah menyedihkan dan tragis bahwa di antara negara-negara dengan
tutupan hutan tersisa yang masih luas, Indonesia menjadi yang tercepat
dalam kehancuran hutannya. Dalam waktu tiap 30 menit saja, kawasan
hutan seluas Taman Monas di Jakarta telah dihancurkan. Menyandang
gelar pada buku rekor ini adalah hal yang memalukan bagi Indonesia,"
ungkap Hapsoro, Juru Kampanye Hutan Greenpeace Asia Tenggara.

Greenpeace menyerukan kepada pemerintah Indonesia untuk menahan laju
kehancuran hutan tersebut dengan melakukan pengentian penebangan
sementara (moratorium) terhadap seluruh operasi penebangan hutan skala
komersial di seluruh kawasan hutan alam di Indonesia. Organisasi ini
juga menekankan bahwa moratorium merupakan langkah awal yang
diperlukan untuk menghentikan laju deforestasi yang tak terkendali dan
memberikan kesempatan kepada hutan untuk memulihkan dirinya.
Moratorium juga harus digunakan untuk mengkaji ulang dan mengubah arah
kebijakan terkait dengan hutan yang masih tersisa di Indonesia, yang
selama ini hanya mendorong kepentingan- kepentingan yang mendukung
terjadinya kehancuran dibandingkan perlindungan.

Sektor kehutanan di Indonesia telah dan masih dirusak oleh
ketidakpastian hukum, korupsi dan penjarah hutan yang semuanya masih
belum berhasil dikontrol oleh pemerintah Indonesia. Tingginya
permintaan dunia internasional atas produk-produk kayu dan kertas,
serta komoditas lain seperti minyak sawit, juga mendorong lajunya
kehancuran hutan.

"Hanya Indonesia yang bisa melindungi hutannya dan penduduk yang
hidupnya bergantung pada hutan, namun pemerintah negara-negara Uni
Eropa, Cina, Jepang dan Amerika Utara juga harus menjamin bahwa negara
mereka tidak lagi menjadi tempat pencucian gelap produk-produk hasil
dari kehancuran hutan kita. Bila tidak, hal memalukan yang disandang
Indonesia ini juga mejadi milik mereka," tambah Hapsoro.
Rekor Indonesia sebagai penghancur hutan tercepat juga menyebabkan
negara tersebut menjadi pencemar rumah kaca ketiga di dunia setelah
Amerika Serikat dan Cina. Hingga sebesar 25% dari emisi gas rumah kaca
disebabkan oleh pembukaan lahan hutan. (5)

Pemecahan rekor dunia Indonesia ini diumumkan hampir bersamaan waktu
dengan pertemuan tiga gubernur propinsi dengan komunitas internasional
tentang kemungkinan upaya bersama dalam mencegah deforestasi dan
mengurangi akibat perubahan iklim. Mengurangi dan menghindari
deforestasi juga merupakan salah satu solusi yang dipertimbangkan
dalam menghadapi perubahan iklim di pertemuan kerja ketiga
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) yang sedang
berlangsung di Bangkok.

Greenpeace is adalah organisasi kampanye yang independen, yang
menggunakan konfrontasi kreatif dan tanpa kekerasan untuk mengungkap
masalah lingkungan hidup, dan mendorong solusi yang diperlukan untuk
masa depan yang hijau dan damai.

Catatan untuk editor:
(1) Roadmap to recovery, 2006, Greenpeace International (see:
http://www.intactfo rests.org)
(2) World Resources Institute, 1997, The Last Frontier Forests.
(3) Dupiklat sertifikat dari Guinness World Records yang
mengkonfirmasikan pemecahan rekor Indonesia tersedia bila diminta.
(4) Walau Indonesia menghancurkan hutannya lebih cepat dari negara
lain, Brazil menghancurkan area yang lebih luas tiap tahunnya.
(5) Houghton, RA (2003) Revisi estimasi emisi karbon ke atmosfir yang
dihasilkan oleh perubahan dan pengelolaan tanah 1850-2000. Tellus 55B:
378-90; Houghton, RA (2005a) Deforestasi hutan tropik sebagai sumber
emisi rumah kaca.

Untuk informasi lebih lanjut, hubungi:

Hapsoro, Regional Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia,
+62 815 857 19872,

Patrisia Prakarsa, Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia –
+62 815 1195 4771,

Arie Rostika Utami, Assistant Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast
Asia – Indonesia
+62 856 885 7275,