Mon, 08 Aug 1994

Conservationists need to seek substitute jobs for displaced

JAKARTA (JP): Modern conservationists currently face the challenge not only of preserving nature but also generating alternative incomes for those who used to earn their living by exploiting the environment, an environmentalist says.

Jorgen Randers, deputy Director General of the Switzerland- based World Wide Fund for Nature International, said both challenges should be met simultaneously. "There is no point even in doing short-term conservation efforts if it is useless in the long run".

Randers, who arrived last Wednesday for a four-day visit to observe operation systems of the WWF projects here, told The Jakarta Post that a sustainable-type of conservation had now become the world-wide policy of the WWF.

"It doesn't work to set aside a nature reserve and just throw out the people," he pointed out.

Randers explained that the WWF -- which used to be an abbreviation of the World Wildlife Fund -- was first established in 1961 as a pure conservation organization whose objective was, for the most part, to protect endangered animals.

During its development, however, the organization gradually shifted to become a nature-conservation and later a nature- integrated-with-development organization, he said.

His trip here included a visit to the Bogor tea plantation and a boating excursion to the Rambut Island bird sanctuary in the Seribu Islands archipelago, north of Jakarta.

Randers acknowledged Indonesia's increasing awareness to consider environmental aspects at an early point of time as a positive improvement, citing the designation of certain areas for natural parks and nature reserves.

"No such efforts, however, should be considered enough... my job in life is to say that nothing is enough, we need to do more (for nature) all the time," he said.

Hongkong, he said, has gone as far as setting aside 40 percent of its territory as a water-catchment area in which no form of development is permitted.

Randers was optimistic that such a balance could be achieved in Indonesia despite several obstacles which, he felt existed all over the world.


"In its early stages, the rise of a country's economy often destroys a lot of the natural heritage in an unnecessary way... if one thought more about both aspects, one could probably have rapid economic growth and conservation at a later point in time," he said. He added, however, that there were no countries which were an example of such a balance.

Randers acknowledged that the WWF Indonesian Program, which employs a larger number of local people than expatriates, could in fact become a role model for other countries.

Its cooperation in the form of a memorandum of understanding with the government -- which in this case is represented by the Ministry of Forestry's Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation -- made the presence of the WWF here well-organized and also informed the authorities of what the organization was doing, he said.

The WWF currently has 3,500 people working all over the world and operates in 100 countries. In Indonesia, the WWF employs 180 people, of which only 14 are foreigners. It currently has 26 projects in the country, consisting of marine and forest conservation and primary environmental care.(pwn)