The Indonesian NGO Auriga has published a new report about deforestation in West Papua. The report carries the title “Planned Deforestation: Forest Policy in Papua” and contains updated information about the reasons, developments and current state of forests in West Papua. Even though Indonesia has successfully decreased its carbon emissions on a national level since 2015, the highest levels of deforestation in West Papua have reportedly occurred under the current Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, who has held office since the first term of Joko Widodo’s presidency.
The provinces of Papua and Papua Barat are home to the largest remaining forest area in Indonesia, with 33,847,928 hectares. Both provinces were granted an autonomy status in 2001. However, the special autonomy status has not helped reduce deforestation in West Papua due to a lack of clarity in harmonising conflicting national and local regulations. Growing deforestation in West Papua is related to the massive administrative partition that has taken place in West Papua. Each time new regencies were formed, the lack of definitive administrative boundaries, functional regional government organisational and proper development planning has contributed to deforestation.
Over the last twenty years, natural forest cover in West Papua has depleted by 663,443 hectares. About 71% of deforestation occurred between 2011-2019, with an average of 34,918 hectares of forest loss every year. The largest area of deforestation was observed in the Merauke Regency (123,049 ha), followed by the Boven Digoel Regency (51,600 ha). Meanwhile, the deforestation in the regencies Merauke, Boven Digoel, Mappi and Asmath has accumulated to 203,006 hectares – this is equal to almost one-third of all deforestation in West Papua.
Indonesian forestry ministers have issued seventy-two forest estate release decrees (SK PKH) for a total area of 1,549,205 hectares in West Papua between 1992 – 2019. About 1,460,000 hectares of the approved areas were allocated to the agriculture sector. Oil palm estate development made up 84% of all forest estate released in West Papua, with a total area of 1,307,780 hectares. Satellite imagery indicates that 1,292,497 hectares or 82% of the total area released for oil palm were covered by natural forest at the time of release. In 2019, these areas experienced 145,595 hectares of deforestation or almost one-third of all deforestation in West Papua.