On 2 November 2004 the Minister of Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Mrs van Ardenne, has adopted for 2005 an amendment to the Dutch budget for development cooperation, which will enable financing in the order of Euro 5 million in 2005 and 10 million of structural funding each following year for the conservation and restoration of the peatswamp forests of Central Kalimantan, integrated with poverty reduction.
The amendment was developed as a result of intensive lobbying of the Netherlands-based conservation community, including Wetlands International. At the invitation of IUCN-NC’s Working Group The Hague, Marcel Silvius presented on 13 October the case of the peatswamp forests of Central Kalimantan before an audience of members of parliament, political advisors, and representatives of the conservation organizations, and made a plea for this special allocation of Dutch development cooperation funding. The plea was followed up next day by a motion of the Christian Union and Christian Democrats proposing the amendment. With the Minister’s decision this has now been approved. The peatswamp forests in Central Kalimantan include the Mawas, Sebangau and ex-mega rice project areas. These wetlands hold some of the largest remaining populations of the Orang Utan. They are being threatened by uncontrolled logging, drainage and fires. Wetlands International has worked already for several years in the area with local communities and has been successful in restoring the hydrology of several critical areas. This work is financed by CIDA and UNEP-GEF. It involved building 7 dams so far of up to 25 meters width in the 10 meter deep drainage channels of the failed ex-mega rice project. The construction works were implemented by the local communities to the design made by local engineers, applying various soft-soil engineering techniques. These dams represent the first serious attempt on the ground to counter the ongoing drainage of the peatland, which has lead to fires that produced 0,5 gigaton of carbon emissions in 1997 alone, just from this area. The fires and smoke also created significant health problems of local people and significant economic damages in losses of timber and reduced tourism. The location of the dams was strategically chosen to be most effective in safeguarding the Mawas peatswamp forests which have become part of a conservation concession managed by the BOS Foundation. Other Dutch conservation organizations active in the region include WWF and Alterra. The problems in the area are a combination of poverty and environment issues which will require long-term investments to overcome. Wetlands International has therefore lobbied for a financial mechanism that will enable a sustainable funding source targeted not only at the conservation and restoration of the peatswamp forests, but particularly also at investments in alternative income sources for the local communities. This was conveyed to parliament through a written inquiry by Mrs Huizinga of the Christen Union. In response, the Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation has specifically stated that it is intended that this will be a long-term funding scheme, and that she will pursue the establishment of a Multi-donor Trust Fund. Options to channel the funding via this financial mechanism will be investigated. She also stated that the implementation should be arranged with the local and national authorities of Indonesia, and that the funding should be carefully monitored.
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