The country’s fifth National Spatial Day, to be observed today on Nov. 8, should be used as an opportunity for all parties to pay more attention to the widely neglected indigenous regional spatial planning.
Indonesia’s indigenous regional spatial planning and mapping has progressed slowly. More indigenous regions have instead “disappeared”, preceded by multidimensional prolonged conflicts.
Development has always been interpreted as making investments to open up employment opportunities, increase people’s income, local revenues and boost tax and foreign exchange receipts.
Both spatial structure and patterns for several regional spatial plans have been generally ignorant of the existing indigenous regions and their economic performance. In fact, indigenous people have, from early on, used their space in harmony with nature in their daily lives.
In the name of investments, the land owned by indigenous people is often converted into concession lands. Not only are the indigenous people marginalized, but they are also expelled from their own land. Development becomes a justification for the seizure of indigenous people’s land and resources.
These situations arise because policymakers often believe land belonging to indigenous people is unproductive, so to achieve prosperity investors are invited to open up the indigenous people’s land.
Due to low valuation on natural resources, environmental services and even culture and local wisdom, territorial boundaries and indigenous peoples fall victim to the discriminatory and exclusive development policies and practices in the management of natural resources and environment.
However, indigenous people such as the Dayak Seberuang are unique in practicing sustainable natural and environmental resource management. There are hundreds of Dayak subtribes in Kalimantan. These people live, among other places, in Riam Batu village, Sintang regency in West Kalimantan. The village is 77 kilometers from the capital, also called Sintang. The 5,000-hectare village has 264 househols with abundant natural resources around them.
Water flows from the customary forest areas. These protected areas are capable of running at least three microhydro power plants with a capacity of between 26 and 74 kilowatts. They can provide electricity for lighting and other purposes to at least 300 houses, streets, village offices, schools, public health centers and village maternity clinics in three hamlets.
The same water source is also used for supplying clean water with pipelines to residents’ houses. Interestingly all physical infrastructure development is self-funded and under self-management by the local partners without significant government assistance.
Results of a recent study on village economies also shows that the Dayak Seberuang community depends entirely on the existing natural resources and environment. Benefits include commodity products and environmental services including water.
The valuation of mainly economic reviving commodities shows that the economic value per capita of the Seberuang Dayak indigenous areas in Riam Batu village is Rp 36.45 million (US$2,397) per year, or Rp 3.04 million per month. This calculation is still deeply and conservatively minimal as so many things have not been included in the calculation.
Other indirect benefits, such as forests as a regulator of hydrourological functions and noneconomic benefits, have yet to be included in the calculation. The role played by the indigenous people’s local wisdom in preventing forest and land fires is classified as a non-economic benefit.
Sintang regency’s gross regional domestic product per capita was Rp 27.89 million in 2016, less than the economic value of the Dayak Seberuang people. Meanwhile, Sintang’s minimum wage was Rp 2.03 million per month in 2017, also less than the economic value of the Dayak Seberuang.
The comparison between those figures indicates that the people and Seberuang indigenous region have economic performances that could — in the conservatively minimal calculation — exceed the maximum the government can prepare. It means the government’s agenda needs to focus at least on preparing preconditions and enabling factors for the economy of indigenous peoples to grow and develop.
An urgent priority precondition is basic infrastructure, namely road and bridge repairs and health and educational facilities, which are still comparatively minor. Further, government recognition of the indigenous peoples’ access and region is vital to ensure long-term security for their management and to encourage investments by the community members themselves.
Based on studies and the fact that there are many other people across the country with similar characteristics, the government needs to immediately review the development narratives by not negating the existence and underestimating the economic performances of the indigenous people, despite reasons behind the investment privileges.
The need to improve development narratives has also become a global concern, as reflected in the Bandung Declaration launched at the recent 2018 Global Land Forum in Bandung, West Java. One of the declaration points affirms that our success in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals will greatly depend on the willingness and commitment of all parties to fundamentally change the system that has been heavily promoting inequality and injustice, triggering conflict and exclusiveness.
Thoroughly realizing indigenous regions’ spatial planning and making it an important part in Indonesia’s development narratives are needed for the agenda of fundamental change.