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Papua adopts a new approach to integrating development planning with biodiversity conversation

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It is often the case that tensions arise between developers and environmentalists when new land use projects are conceived.  The situation is not much different in Papua, a province of Indonesia, with vast tropical rainforest, and rich biodiversity.

In February 2002, Conservation International and MI collaborated on pursuing a more cooperative approach to address the concerns of various interest groups represented in Papua’s environmental and economic resources.  The goal was to conduct analysis of alternative development strategies and help decision-makers select a strategy that contributed to economic development of Papua, but did not degrade its environment. MI’s Threshold 21 model was adopted as the tool for this analysis.

Working with the local partners, MI and Conservation International collected and refined economic, social, and environmental data for Papua. Proposals for a variety of major projects being considered in Papua were also reviewed. These projects comprised different sets of investments that reflected different plausible strategies for the province.  T21 was then adapted to the Papua economy and four scenarios were designed to consider alternatives.

  • The first scenario was a “business-as-usual” base case. It included a continuation of the current policies and their expected results, with no major additional programs. This included some logging and some development of hydropower and mining activities in the interior.

  • The second scenario examined the impacts of proposals to greatly expand hydropower generation and undertake a significant mining and ore processing in several areas of the province.

  • The third scenario analyzed the impacts of completing a major road-building project through the relatively unpopulated interior of the main island. This would have opened up very large areas of virgin forest to logging; some of the returns of the logging would have paid for the road. Both of these programs would have been financed by a combination of foreign investment and borrowing.

  • The fourth scenario considered a program of promoting local enterprise in populated areas, providing training and social services, and improving appropriate local infrastructure. This program would have been funded from provincial resources.

Threshold 21 then demonstrated the impacts of these scenarios on the gross domestic and national product of Papua; on employment, on use of resources, and the level of external debt, among other factors. The results were then used in discussions with local officials and civil society groups to consider the appropriate policies to pursue.

The analysis revealed that, compared to the base case, all three additional policy scenarios generated more growth and employment, but with significantly varied differences. For instance, both the hydro/mining and road/logging scenarios generated higher GDP growth than the base case or local development alternatives. However, they created significantly higher levels of debt for the province and had severe impacts on the environment. On the other hand, the local development alternative created a higher growth in gross national product, more employment, and more sustainable development over the longer term, with a much lower level of debt.

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