The Forest Scribe

Economic Development and Environmental Damage in New Normal Era

The New Normal Era, which has begun to be felt by Indonesians, has sparked awareness of the need for a sustainable economic development that at the same time is able to protect natural resources and fulfill aspects of social justice, environmental activists say.

“Every sustainable development and economic policy must contain elements of natural resource protection as well as other aspects of social justice,” said Ismid Hadad, Head of the Yayasan Kehati at a webinar organized by the Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan on Thursday (9/7) .

Hadad said that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Central and Regional Governments must design programs that are in line with environmental preservation.

“NGOs, the central and regional governments, must design environmental preservation programs without any compromise regarding damage,” stressed Hadad. “Problems like this can certainly be overcome by creative program design in which economic development for the community is successful but we still preserve the environment,” he added.

Teguh Surya Executive Director of the Sustainable Madani Foundation who spoke at the same occasion, said that the constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to a good and healthy environment, but the characteristics of the country’s economic development did not support this.

Economic development policies such as that rely on the oil palm plantation sector to sustain the national economy, according to him, clearly had not succeeded in raising the welfare of the producing regions and their farmers. On the other hand, the development of oil palm plantations has often converted turned productive land, including forests and peatlands, into oil palm plantations.

The same thing also happened in the mining sector. “Relying on extractive development will be more detrimental to the country’s economy and will lead to welfare inequality,” Teguh said.

Rimawan Pradiptyo, Chair of the department of economics at the Faculty of Economics and Business, Gadjah Mada University, added that Indonesia had done enough research on the environment and it was now time for the results of these research to be applied.

“We don’t need to count how much research is there, right now we are not in the research phase anymore, there are a lot of things done by colleagues related to research, there is already literature review, but then what should we do to make changes?” Pradiptyo asked.

Pradiptyo believed that the government had no long-term environmental sustainability program, and has always been satisfied with temporary programs that only have a maximum duration of one to three years. Pradiptyo himself said he is planning to make an environmental sustainability plan for now to 3025.

“We are in too much of a hurry to use one-year programs, huge changes take decades. For example, South Korea took 40 years to get better. I myself made a sustainability plan for until 3025,” Pradiptyo said.

One source of environmental damage is the forest and land fires which have become  annual disasters for more than a decade, but have not been taken as lessons to change the development model.

According to data quoted by MADANI, forest and land fires that occurred at the end of 2015 have burned an area of 4.5 times larger than the island of Bali and caused economic losses of Rp. 221 trillion, and in 2019 there were 1.6 million hectares of forests and peatlands being burned.

Emil Salim, Indonesia’s economic and environmental expert, said that Indonesia cannot only focus on infrastructure development as is often voiced by the government. According to him the government must change the direction of its economic development by prioritizing the fields of education and the quality of human resources. 

“There are changes that the government doesn’t understand yet, as it is just business as usual and not responding to the importance of changing the orientation to not only economic development alone and but also human resources, we must prioritize education and the quality of human resources, not only infrastructure. Enrichment and not exploitation. Don’t  just stop at raw material but also think in terms of value added,” Emil said.

Indonesia’s rich natural resources are abundant but also prone to disasters due to the conditions, and was vulnerable to climate crisis. The uncontrolled mining of its natural resources by the government was not an appropriate choice for environmental sustainability and Indonesia’s future, Teguh said.

Teguh said that the good and bad of economic and environmental conditions in Indonesia will affect the Indonesian people themselves, so there was no choice but to  commit to a new Indonesia.

“Madani invites all parties to contribute ideas and propositions so that Indonesia’s economic development can be sovereign, sustainable and righteous,” said Teguh.

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