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Squatters, endangered species and a new capital city for Indonesia? The case of Kutai National Park in the 21st century

Authors: Candice Carr Kelman*, Arizona State University
Topics: Sustainability Science, Human-Environment Geography, Asia
Keywords: Sustainability, informal settlements, conservation, biodiversity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 1:15 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Kutai, on the east coast of Borneo, has long been an area of both resource development and conservation. Kutai National Park (in the province of East Kalimantan) has been the site of debate for the past several decades due to the deforestation caused by migrants escaping conflict in nearby Sulawesi and illegally settling in the park, combined with land speculation related to the existence of rich coal and oil deposits beneath the rich peatlands of the park. This has drawn additional settlers from elsewhere in Kalimantan as the island continues to be heavily impacted by deforestation and palm oil development. The park itself is surrounded by a coal mine, a fertilizer factory, palm oil and timber plantations. The forest area of the park was reduced by at least half, and park rangers felt powerless to hold anyone accountable in the political climate of post-Suharto decentralization. Now, with the recent announcement of the Indonesian government that they plan to move the capital city from Jakarta (which is below sea level currently and sinking) to the area of the coast of East Kalimantan surrounding Kutai National Park, there is a renewed urgency to address the conundrum of how to safeguard the wild orchids, clouded leopards, orangutans and other rare species living in the areas of the park that remain forested, while adequately addressing the needs and rights of the people who have been living in the park for decades, operating sawmills and building homes, and yet do not have formal land titles.

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