Tue, 10 Jun 2003

Environment Day

In your editorial of June 5, 2003, you raised the question of whether there is anything to justify celebrations, when all around us we see rapid environmental degradation. Ironically, in the same paper the state minister for the environment admits to "not having a clue about how to handle illegal logging". Other articles point to the close links between water resources, environmental degradation and poverty alleviation and Indonesian perceptions about the U.S. and Americans.

As you have pointed out, Indonesia is one of the first developing countries to have enacted legislation in response to environmental concerns. Prof. Dr. Emil Salim, the architect of the early legislation and one of the "Berkeley Mafia", is said to have exclaimed at the Bali summit, "What do we do about the Americans?"

The current state minister for the environment has asked people to suggest fresh and concrete measures on the grounds that the political will is already high. However in the next breath, he admits to a lack of coordination among different agencies.

Commercially minded businesspeople are generally uninterested in the political issues which often result in much talk about good governance, war and destruction. The government has to take note of the fact that integrated actions relating to the environment in general, and forests and water resources in particular, can proceed only when the political will is consolidated as a joint statement by sectoral agencies at the center and the provinces for specific river basins, large and small.

There are, no doubt, many purely business-oriented entities including those from the U.S. (consultants, contractors and investment companies) who have the expertise and the willingness to act on solutions which will benefit themselves and the poor communities which live in and around the rapidly diminishing forests. They will enter the fray when they see strong commitment to tackle the main concerns, such as environmental conservation and poverty alleviation, in an integrated and economically and financially efficient manner.