Deforestation in West Papua – 1,488 hectares forest logged down between January and May 2020

According to data published by the Centre for Study, Documentation and Advocacy on Peoples’ Rights (Pusaka), 1,488 hectares of forest area in West Papua have been logged down between January and May 2020. This equals a size of 2,084 soccer fields. The majority of logging activities were related to the expansion of palm oil plantations. Pusaka has compiled the data based on field reports and satellite imagery analysis.

The largest areas were reportedly cleared within the concession areas of the palm oil companies PT. Medco Papua Hijau Selaras in the regency of Manokwari, Papua Barat Province and PT. Internusa Jaya in the Merauke Regency, Papua Province, with each company covering an area of 372 hectares. Forest areas were also logged by palm oil companies in the regencies Boven Digoel and Teluk Bintuni. Pusaka claims that some of these companies reportedly received their concession permits through non-legal means. Others are accused of environmental pollution, logging of protected high carbon stock areas and making unfair compensation payments to the customary land rights holders.

Pusaka underlined that plantations and illegal gold mines also pose a problem in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The virus may quickly spread into remote areas through recruitment of new labourers, which are often hired from outside of West Papua. Indigenous communities are particularly at risk of getting infected. The lack of functioning health care facilities in these areas could be fatal for indigenous peoples whose houses are located near plantations or mines. Especially illegal gold mines, where indigenous peoples are often hired as day labourers, may become a hot spot of COVID-19 transmissions and put entire communities at risk.