Charles Ham of HOPE Worldwide has been working with Universitas Papua to put on a conference on Disaster Management. Due to our long partnerships with HOPE conducting trainings on vulnerability assessments in Eastern Indonesia in the past few years we received an invitation from the rector of Universitas Papua to be part of the keynote session on mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) into planning practice. HOPE had invited Dr Hendri — the coordinator of the Climate Change and Disaster Mitigation Study Center at Universitas Papua — to attend our DRR and CCA strategies workshop In August 2016. After attending the workshops in Ternate, Dr Hendri requested our involvement because they have an interest in initiating programs focusing on disaster management and climate change. They are hoping to establish and get programs running for their disaster center similar to initiatives among our partners at Universitas Khairun. As part of this conference taking place in the city of Manokwari, we were requested to establish coordination between University of Hawaii and Universitas Papua on DRR and CCA.
West Papua province is a province of Indonesia and was created in 2003. It now covers the “bird’s head” of the island and the famous tourism destinations of the Raja Ampat islands to the west. The total population of the province is estimated at just under a million people. West Papua, when combined with the neighboring province of Papua, is the most geographically and culturally diverse of Indonesia’s provinces, with more than 250 Melanesian indigenous ethnic groups. The majority of its population are Christian. Geographically, West Papua and Papua province forests together cover 42 million hectares, or a quarter of Indonesia’s total forested area, and is home to over half of Indonesia’s biodiversity.
It is also prone to disasters and climate change. As with many areas in Indonesia they are at risk for many disasters: earthquakes, floods, tsunami and storm surge. The map below from UN OCHA demonstrates the risk and its remoteness.
The sense is that West Papua gets fewer opportunities for training in these areas. We are now looking to establish trainings on vulnerability assessments next April. They would like to use this as an opportunity to establish some research to action activities among vulnerable communities in the province.
The Rector also expressed a desire to develop a full program on disaster management, but this requires overcoming some key hurdles that will still take time. But the long range plans are in the works. In the meantime, we are looking for opportunities that the university and its collaborators can provide.
While we were there, we went along the coast and looked at some of the adaptations that are taking place. There is a major focus on building a seawall along the coast. This focus on hard infrastructure along the coast, while providing immediate protection, also brings other management and ecological challenges.
The views are picturesque, with many landscapes that look in many ways “pristine.” The changing access to the region and the rich natural resources located there foreshadow some intense pressures and changes with the planned trajectory of development. There are vast plantation expansion plans in the region and people noted their fear of losing the forests to development.
We also had the opportunity to meet with the governor, rector, and BPBD. They were all very supportive of the idea that there is a need for more collaboration and more training.