Mon, 11 Sep 2000

Experts warn of rifts in border demarcation

JAKARTA (JP): Survey and mapping experts warned on Sunday that border issues could trigger disputes among the country's regencies and provinces ahead of the implementation of Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Autonomy in January 2001.

"Mapping the exact borders for all 349 regencies and the 27 provinces is a great and daunting task... since it will certainly affect the natural resources, survey rights and revenues belonging to or collected by each regency and province," Klass Villanueva, deputy chief for surveying of the Coordinating Agency for National Surveying and Charting (Bakosurtanal), told The Jakarta Post.

Border issues at sea and on land were never much of the problem in the past, he said.

"But now several cases have emerged, such as the ongoing dispute concerning Berhala island in Riau. Riau's neighboring province of Jambi claims that historically the island is theirs. The island happens to be a prospective tourist resort," Klass said.

Demarcation issues will also become crucial for large companies conducting offshore exploration, oil drilling and fishing as well for companies involved in various onshore economic activities, he said.

"Mapping will later determine which territory belongs to which regency or province and to whom the companies will pay their taxes," Klass said.

Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world and has a maritime zone consisting of about 7.9 million square kilometers and a coastline extending to some 89,000 kilometers, while the total land area of the country is about 1.9 million square kilometers.

Parluhutan Manurung, the Agency's Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geomatic specialist, said that Law No. 22/1999 on Regional Autonomy clearly stated that the maritime territory of each regency would extend four miles (6.4 kilometers) from the shore while the relevant province's maritime zone would extend for the next eight miles (12.9 kilometers). The remaining Indonesian waters, outside of provincial and regency waters, are to come under the jurisdiction of the central government.

"Such an arrangement certainly creates a complex problem. How can we possibly demarcate a sea? Unlike land borders, maritime borders are an 'illusion'. Fishermen from Madura usually venture up into South Sulawesi waters. If they do that, is it breaching the rules?

"Many technical regulations must be put into effect and the public must be informed about them. And the mapping process itself will be complicated and expensive," he added.

A one-day maritime mapping operation in a particular area needs at least US$5,000, Klass said. "That only covers the cost of a special echo-sounding ship complete with all the equipment required to measure temperature, currents and position. Imagine how much we have to spend to survey all of the country's waters," he said.

The only available survey ship is owned by the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Klass said.

"By the middle of 2001, we will have completed land surveys for Java, Bali, Lombok and Nusa Tenggara on a scale of 1:25,000. As for maritime areas, it will take quite sometime."

He added that inadequate government regulations had slowed down the mapping process.

Parluhutan blamed the sluggish mapping process partly on the Indonesian Military (TNI).

"The military still thinks of maps as something to be kept secret whereas satellites and computer technology now allow us to access maps for any place on the surface of the earth," Parluhutan said. (edt)