Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

After the Conservation Project: Danau Sentarum National Park and Its Vicinity-Conditions and Prospects (1)

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

After the Conservation Project: Danau Sentarum National Park and Its Vicinity-Conditions and Prospects (1)

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Danau Sentarum conservation project, initiated in 1992 with funding from the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), (2) aimed to develop management guidelines for the wildlife reserve (now national park). The project ended in July 1997, at a time that ushered in a new and uncertain period for Indonesia. A currency crisis (krisis moneter or krismon) plunged both economy and politics into chaos, ending in the downfall of the Suharto presidency and the eventual election of the current "reform" government led by Abdurrahman Wahid. Along with krismon, some other parts of the widespread Indonesian archipelago have seen continuing violence (i.e. Timor and Maluku). The provinces of Kalimantan have been relatively free of any major conflicts, although West Kalimantan saw some renewed violence against Madurans by Malays and Dayaks in 1998 and in late 2000.

Political and economic uncertainty has continued, however. The national movement toward formal regional autonomy (scheduled for 2001) has been preceded by an informal, de facto autonomy. This has allowed some sectors in West Kalimantan to benefit from more intensive economic ties with foreign countries, especially Sarawak and particularly through the legal and illegal export of agricultural and forest products. Politically, however, there is even more uncertainty about how to deal with autonomy and shrinking subsidies from Jakarta, and this has led to what most locals see as increased corruption by government officials.

These uncertainties have left conservation in West Kalimantan in a very weak position. Not only is there indecision by conservation agencies on how to proceed in the new political climate, but there are strong economic demands being made on West Kalimantan's natural resources, particularly through increased logging and forest conversion activities. (3) In this research note, we take a brief look at the Danau Sentarum National Park (DSNP) and its vicinity after the end of the ODA conservation project. We describe the current threats to the Park which largely come in the form of confusion over Park boundaries, oil palm plantations, logging, gold mining, changes in catchment hydrology, local boundary disputes, fire, and over-fishing. All is not gloomy though, and we consider some bright spots such as NGO activities that have followed the conservation project, positive aspects of local logging, and increased community autonomy. Finally we discuss prospects for DSNP management in this new era.

Current Threats

A new boundary and status of DSNP. Danau Sentarum was officially declared a National Park on 4 February 1999, forming only the latest of many boundaries for the conservation area. However, the new boundary is perhaps one of the most important in light of the proximate threats to the integrity of the area. During the course of the conservation project, three boundaries were proposed. One of these, amounting to 132,000 ha, was taken up in the provincial structure plan in 1996 with the proposed status of National Park. In 1997, the conservation project (Jeanes 1997) proposed a buffer-zone addition to this boundary bringing the total area to 197,000 ha. Much of the "buffer zone" area included areas of tall peat swamp forest.

Little happened with boundary and status proposals for Danan Sentarum until February 1999 when the area was officially gazetted as a National Park. However, the area and boundary information was not released until much later that year. Recent discussion with the Directorate General of Nature Protection and Conservation (PKA) clarified the current status of the new boundary. In the agreement with accompanying maps (signed by the Minister of Forestry and Estate Crops [MOFEC] in February 1999), the size of the National Park is 132,00 ha with a buffer zone of 65,000 ha. The total size (including buffer zone) is 197,000 ha, which equates to the boundary proposed by Jeanes (1997). …

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