01/07/2011, 00.00
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West Borneo: Capuchin friars campaign for environment and tribals

by Mathias Hariyadi
In 2010 in Indonesia, human activity has caused the contamination of five lakes and 65 rivers. The religious have launched projects to promote the reforestation of entire areas ruined by speculators and timber barons. Environmentalists call for a review of the parameters on industrial waste.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Deforestation, gradual drying up of crops, an exponential increase in the contamination of rivers and lakes: Indonesia’s economic growth in recent years goes hand in hand with a pollution alarm launched by environmentalists and Catholic leaders. In 2010 alone, experts have added 65 new rivers and five lakes to the blacklist of places contaminated "because of human activity." To meet emergency needs, a group of priests has started reforestation and recovery of flora and fauna projects in some areas.  

Fr. Matheus Yuli, a priest of the diocese of Ketapang (in West Borneo), works closely with the Dayaks, a native people of Borneo (Kalimantan, in local language) and explains that "it is almost impossible to think about Dayak cultural identity and civilization, without the presence of their forest. " The priest denounces the devastation caused by speculators and tycoons, first with an indiscriminate deforestation and then the creation of a palm tree plantation for oil production. The damage caused to the area, has endangered the survival of tribal peoples.  

The island of Borneo is five times larger than the island of Java, the most populous of the Indonesian archipelago. The native Dayak are divided into hundreds of ethnic groups and each speak a different language, as well as having a different traditional culture and way of cultivation. In western Borneo Capuchin friars have launched a reforestation project, to restore the local natural environment. " It was a hard job to do, - says Fr Samuel Sidin Oton, a Dayak - since native Dayak tribal groups were not easy to be brainstormed over the possibility of making their barren forest to be green again". Among the projects launched by the religious, reforestation of over 100 hectares of land in Tunggal Hill in the district of Kubu Raya.

The environmental alarm is not just about forests of Borneo, but includes rivers and lakes throughout the archipelago. A recent study shows that in 2010 alone, human activity has caused the contamination of five lakes and 65 rivers. Mukri Friatna, a member of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), calls for the intervention of the Ministry of Environment and an update of the parameters that affect the waste processing industry.
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