Wed, 21 May 2003

Transmigration site fails

RANTAU, South Kalimantan: Hundreds of families in Tapin regency, South Kalimantan, have left the transmigration site they were allotted and headed back home after trying for years to cultivate the infertile land of Rawa Muning.

Rawa Muning is a marshland in South Kalimantan that was turned into a transmigration site in 1994. Some 500 families from West and Central Java, West Nusa Tenggara and Bali moved to Rawa Muning under a government-backed transmigration program. Now, only a few dozens remain.

Villagers said that the settlers had complained about the poor irrigation system that made Rawa Muning unsuitable for farming.

Fifty-year-old Dabil from Pandahan village said the land around Rawa Muning had once been quite fertile, until the land was made into a transmigration site. He blamed the irrigation system for causing the land's fertility to deteriorate.

Over the years, families that had transmigrated decided to return home, selling their houses for Rp 200,000 (US$23) to Rp 300,000 to locals.

The transmigration program aims to distribute Indonesia's population more evenly throughout the archipelago, relocating families from overcrowded islands like Java to regions where the population is low. -- Antara