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indonesia: raising public awareness of environmental damage

Environmental damage is spiraling out of control in the province of West Kalimantan. Gold mining, illegal logging and the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations are all having a devastating effect on the environment and local communities in the province of West Kalimantan.
indonesia: raising public awareness of environmental damage

Deforestation rates have reached about two million ha a day, with illegal logging and conversion to oil palm plantations the major causes. Without concerted efforts by the Government and all stakeholders, Indonesia’s forests will be lost within twenty years.


Gold mining also has many damaging impacts in the area, one of the most serious being mercury pollution of the Kapuas river.


In Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, and other urban areas, the lack of proper facilities for disposal of household and industrial waste is also generating a serious waste problem. Untreated waste is a major cause of diseases including malaria, diarrhea and dengue fever, and also contributes to climate change.


The effects of climate change are already being felt in Indonesia. Rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of flooding are threatening the livelihoods of coastal communities, farmers, Indigenous People and urban communities.


Everyone in West Kalimantan, from Government to the general public, has a responsibility to stop the destruction, yet knowledge and understanding of environmental issues is low, and many people have been misled by propaganda that presents oil palm cultivation and gold mining as beneficial to the people of Indonesia.


what happened?

Friends of the Earth Indonesia / WALHI ran a project to increase people’s awareness and understanding of environmental issues.


Their work particularly targeted journalists, to improve the reporting of environmental issues, and young people, who will have a vital role in safeguarding the environment for the future.


They hosted a training event for young journalists in Pontianak, led by media professionals. At the end of the two-day course, the journalists were taken on an expedition into the city, to see evidence of the waste problem for themselves. Four articles were published in the Pontianak Post as a direct result of the trip.


FOE Indonesia also held two training events for journalists, students and the public to learn how to facilitate meetings about environmental issues.


On Environment Day in June 2008, FOE Indonesia held an environmental workshop in Payak Kumang village, to boost people’s understanding of government policies and their rights. Some 580 people attended, from eight districts.


Work with schools included focus group discussions in two schools in Pontianak, where students learned about the impacts of climate change. Following the discussions, the students carried out a number of activities, including fundraising for recycling bins, making useful items out of recycled rubbish, a fashion show of recycled clothes, an environmental art exhibition, and a public speaking event.


They also took a roadshow to another school, to teach students about climate change and the impact of oil palm plantations, forest clearance and large-scale mining.


FoE Indonesia also used the media to take messages out to a wider public. They took part in three television talk shows on RUAI TV, on gold mining and mercury, environmentalism, and Indigenous People and oil palm plantations. All drew a positive response from viewers.


They also took part in four radio talk shows, on both government and commercial radio stations. Topics discussed including the impacts of mining and palm oil production in West Kalimantan.


FoE Indonesia also published three feature articles in the monthly magazine Kalimantan Review, which has a circulation of 16,000 copies, as well as online readers. The articles looked at environmental destruction in West Kalimantan; how Indigenous People in Ketapang District are persuading the local government to resist exploitative development in the region; how oil palm plantation company PT Ledo Lestari is violating Indigenous People’s rights on the Indonesia-Malaysia border; and how local communities have been criminalized for demonstrating against the same company.


This media work was complemented by radio jingles played on stations in urban areas of West Kalimantan, especially Pontianak. The jingles conveyed short, clear messages about deforestation and the role of palm oil plantations. The jingles were placed 80 times on two radio stations.


FoE Indonesia also made a 15-minute documentary film about environmental problems in Pontianak city, for distribution to the government, schools and colleges, and for showing to the public.


They also printed and distributed posters with simple, easy-to-understand information about mining, oil palm and general environmental issues in West Kalimantan.


what changed?

The project successfully informed and empowered students and the public across West Kalimantan. The effective use of print and broadcast media meant that messages reached a wide audience. The focus on young journalists has already shown very positive results, and will improve the quality of reporting of environmental issues in future.


The project contributed to building and strengthening the environmental movement among urban communities and students.


As a result of the workshop held on Environment Day, community members have been lobbying District officials, who have had to respond to their demands. NGOs and Indigenous People are now working together, with a shared perspective. They have written a community statement, forcing a response from the District legislature.


what next?

FoE Indonesia hopes to carry out more training events for student journalists, especially in five districts in West Kalimantan.  


They also plan to develop a public speaking festival and painting competition.


They will also support the development of Friends of Environment West Kalimantan (SALAK) through training.


with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)


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