The death toll from flash floods in Wasior, West Papua has now topped 120, reports the Jakarta Post.
110 people are confirmed dead and over 100 are still missing after floods and landslides hit the region around Wasior in the Indonesian part of New Guinea on Monday. Washed out bridges have left some communities isolated and communication is difficult, according to reports. Some of the injured are being evacuated by helicopter.
Indonesian officials say about 80 percent of Wasior was under water.
Environmentalists have linked the damage to widespread logging and mining in upstream areas.
“The ecological disaster in Wasior should serve as serious warning for the government to reassess its policies on massive exploitation of natural resources,” Chalid Muhammad, chairman of the Green Indonesia Institute, an activist group, was quoted as saying during a press conference. “The policies must calculate the environmental impact of forestry activities.”
Logging, mining, and conversion to plantations in the province of West Papua currently accounts for roughly a quarter of Indonesia’s total deforestation, according to some estimates.
Chalid said the West Papua government has granted logging concessions on 3.5 million hectares, mineral and coal mining concessions on 2.7 million hectares, oil and gas exploration licenses on 7.1 million hectares, and plantation concessions on 219,000 hectares.
“If there is no review of existing licenses, the threat of future ecological disasters in West Papua will remain very high,” he was quoted as saying.
Activists say that beyond the ecological damage and threat to downstream populations, expanded industrial activity is exacerbating social conflict between the indigenous Papuan populations and non-native groups, which tend to be see the most benefits from forest extraction activities.
An investigation by the Environment Investigative Agency and Telapak in 2009 found native groups receiving only a pittance for giving up lands to forestry companies in West Papua. In one case, investigators from EIA/Telapak encountered a four year old boy, son of a local landowner, who was asked to sign a contract so that a plantation company could ensure control of the land for decades. “Up for Grabs” reports that communities are inking agreements that pay them below market rates for their land — from $1.50 to $45 per hectare. By comparison a developer can reap hundred to thousands of dollars a year from an oil palm plantation once it reaches maturity in 3-5 years.
(04/01/2009) Two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, have published a revolutionary theory that turns modern meteorology on its head, positing that forests—and their capacity for condensation—are actually the main driver of winds rather than temperature. While this model has widespread implications for numerous sciences, none of them are larger than the importance of conserving forests, which are shown to be crucial to ‘pumping’ precipitation from one place to another. The theory explains, among other mysteries, why deforestation around coastal regions tends to lead to drying in the interior.
(03/19/2009) The World Water Forum brings together 25,000 experts this week in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss the water challenges facing a growing world. According to a compilation of case studies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is sponsoring the event, one of the simplest and least expensive ways to have ample water for a growing human population is to protect watersheds. Not only do protected watersheds provide clean and easy-access water for many of the world’s largest cities, their protection also saves billions of dollars.
(10/04/2007)While conventional wisdom holds that forests help buffer against catastrophic flooding, there has been little evidence to support such notions. A 2005 report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) cited this lack of evidence and argued that flood mitigation efforts though forest preservation could not be justified on economic grounds. Now, a new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, suggests that forests do impact the occurrence and severity of destructive floods. A prominent researcher is already calling the new work a “landmark study” in support of forest conservation.