Local green development initiative in the "heart of the Heart of Borneo"
With 100% percent of its area within the boundary of the Heart of Borneo area and surrounded by three important places of the Heart of Borneo (Betung Kerihun National Park, Kayan Mentarang National Park, and Muller conservation area), the newly designated district in East Kalimantan Province, Mahakam Ulu District, has made it more important to initiate its development with green vision.
We may call it "heart in the Heart of Borneo", as it also sits next to Malinau on the east part, Sarawak on the north part, Kutai Barat District on south, and adjacent to Kapuas Hulu District in West Kalimantan and Murung Raya District in Central Kalimantan. Mahakam Ulu with around 70-80% of its total 1.5 million-ha area to still be covered with forest is situated on the most upstream part of Mahakam River, the main river in East Kalimantan, a life-support system for the whole population. With all these, the local authorities has become more and more aware and recognizes the value of their natural capital.
Expanded from the Kutai Barat District and with the support of WWF-Indonesia and its partners, who particularly WWF-Indonesia, has been supporting the government of Kutai Barat in piloting green economy solution in Kutai Barat since 2008, the new government of Mahakam Ulu District decided to involve WWF-Indonesia to build the path of green development in the area.
Mid November saw the memorandum of understanding between the government of Mahakam Ulu with WWF-Indonesia was signed, a cornerstone to pave the way into a green district in the future. Both parties agreed to collaborate on realisation of green economy through efforts such as sustainable and low-carbon development planning (including spatial planning); promoting effective conservation practices, sustainable natural-resource management, and low-carbon emission business practices; promoting responsible mining practices; empowering community-based local economy; promoting REDD and education for sustainable development.
Key success to new developed area with such extensive forest cover like Mahakam Ulu is, as emphasized by Dr. Efransjah CEO WWF-Indonesia, who was present in the signing ceremony, to develop spatial planning that values potential of natural resources as well as its sustainability. "It is the first and crucial step to ensure that forest and its potentials are managed properly for people of Mahakam Ulu today and in the future."
It is known that one of the major drivers for deforestation is newly developed infrastructure. As a new district and barely started development phase, Mahakam Ulu will, for example, develop infrastructure, and therefore it needs to generate development funds and eventually is open for investment opportunities. The lure of benefits and facilities as an exchange to convert the forest/land into such necessity and to facilitate large-scale plantation of commodities that are foreign to the area needs to be anticipated. Careful planning is crucial to avoid negative impact from unsustainable developments. Therefore an early green spatial planning is one of efforts to support sustainable development in Mahakam ulu District. MS Rusland, the acting head of district said, that through his leadership he committed to put environment and sustainable development a building block to green growth in Mahakam Ulu.