Eco-tourism and Forest Preservation in Manokwari

by Charles Roring in Manokwari city of Papua – the Republic of Indonesia.
Ecotourism is one of the ways that I try to promote to improve the standard of living of Papuan people and at the same time protect the rainforest or the marine environment in Manokwari city. The money which tourists spend to buy fruits, souvenirs and pay local guides will propagate the local economy and attract the local people to develop alternative businesses that are not related to timber extraction from the rainforest. Instead of hunting animals and cutting trees, the Papuan – after escorting foreign tourists and getting the payment for being travel guides, or selling environmentally friendly souvenirs will feel that their forest is highly valuable for tourism and will preserve it voluntarily to attract more visitors.
Papua is very rich of natural resources. Everybody who knows Papua agrees about it. Yet, the living quality of many indigenous Papuan is still low. Many in remote mountainous region are lack of education, and health services. They live in very simple houses which most of them without electricity and clean water. In contrast, Papuans who work as government workers have much better standard of living than their fellow brothers and sisters who are not state employees.
It is not surprising to see that most Papuan youth particularly fresh graduate are dreaming of becoming Pegawai Negeri (state employees). They believe that by being state employees, they will be able to make a lot of money through “cooperation with contractors and businessman as well as investors in various projects and provisioning works (read: collusion, corruption and nepotism).” If we see from the Indonesia’s corruption index, the provinces of Papua and West Papua are among the worst in Indonesia.
At the same time, the number of migrants, coming from other parts of Indonesian islands, is rising rapidly. Transmigration program has destroyed huge areas of Papua’s tropical rainforest. Although a lot of “farmers” have been imported from outside Papua, this region is still far from self sufficient in rice. Every month thousands of tons of rice is still imported from outside Papua. It is clear that the main reason behind the transmigration program is not purely agriculture but something else.
The irresponsible extraction of Papua’s natural resources threatens the existence of rainforest and harms the coral reef environment.
The promotion of eco-tourism, that I am talking about here, must address public education about the importance of preserving the environment through schools and mass media. The education about the responsible extraction of natural resources and the promotion of responsible tourism is not aimed at foreign tourists alone but also the whole population of Papua and Indonesia.
Reading REDD-Monitor’s website, I am shocked to find out that Indonesia has entered the Guinness Book of Records 2009 for clearing 1.8 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2005.
To eliminate Indonesia’s name from the book, and regain our “honor” and most importantly restore our “forest”, all the people in this country must participate. Those who do not live near the forest can reduce their CO2 emission by reducing the consumption of fossil fuel, by riding bicycles, by not using plastic tote bags and by participating in beach clean up activities, and etc. Those who live near the forest must stop cutting the trees and begin conducting reboisation that is important for restoring the already destructed forest.
As the citizen of Manokwari city, I have seen directly how the businesses and the citizens abuse the rainforest around our regency. When logging companies cut the trees, city dwellers dump their domestic wastes into the nearby forest. Tens of thousands of Papuan pristine tropical rainforest is being cleared to make way for palm oil plantation. Hunters go into the forest at night to shoot bats and kuskus not for their meat but more as a hobby. They are not starving! They have good house, and they ride hardtops or expensive motorcyles. It is sad to see that little has been done to stop the killing of wild animals in the protected forest in Table Mountain and Arfak Mountain that are located close to Manokwari city.
I hope that by writing stories about my activities in promoting responsible tourism and forest preservation in manokwaripapua and charlesroring blogs, more and more people will participate in fighting deforestation and preserving our environment.

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