Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category
The Jakarta Post, September 22, 2011 The Brunei Times, September 23, 2011
Forest fires and haze have become an annual problem for Indonesia. During the dry season, forest fires always occur, especially in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Haze covers the sky; causes problems for the transportation sector; reduces economic activities; and stimulates health problems.
The problem has not only become a domestic affair but also affects Indonesia’s reputation in other countries. Singapore and Malaysia are two of the most adversely affected foreign countries due to the smog generated from the forest fires. This is called negative externalities by economists. We might still remember how the Malaysian government sent hundreds of fire squads, called “Bomba”, to help Indonesia to fight forest fires in 1997. The forest fire tragedy that year was one of the worst forest fires in Indonesian history, in which the smog even reached Thailand and the Philippines.
“All we have yet discovered is but a trifle in comparison with what lies hid in the great treasury of nature”, said Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology. Van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria in 1676. More than three centuries later, there are still much that is unknown and undiscovered about bacteria.
What van Leeuwenhok said is also relevant to what has been happening in Indonesia. Caterpillar population explosions have occurred in many regions across the country after the first outbreak occurred in Probolinggo, East Java. There has been no single reason as to why the outbreaks have occured. The fact that the incidents involve more than one species of caterpillars is also interesting. There are many questions, such as why have only the numbers of caterpillars exploded and not the numbers of other insects that share the caterpillar’s habitat.
Climate change has undeniably become one of the greatest global issues in decades. There is no such single issue that has brought so many countries to sit together to talk about the problem, even though from many different points of view and perspectives. Along the way, apprehensions about rising global temperatures, which initially were purely scientific, have now become more political (see Anthony Gidden, The Politics of Climate Change, 2009).
Early this December the climate change Conference of Parties (COP) 16 was undertaken in Cancun, Mexico. Although many are doubtful about the outcomes of the Cancun meeting, this COP is still an important milestone for dictating the future direction after the Protocol Kyoto ends in 2012.
Indonesia seems to be at the crossroads of the climate change issue. On the one hand, we have to stand together with the international community to push the mitigation agenda on decreasing carbon emission levels. This nation, on the other hand, is already facing real problems with regard to climate alteration, especially in the agricultural sector, and it needs prompt adaptation action (see Teddy Lesmana, The Jakarta Post, July 26). Which one has to be prioritized?
Extreme weather for the last couple of months has adversely affected agriculture. The prolonged rainy season devastated many agricultural commodities, such as vegetables and rice, in many regions. The price of those commodities, such as chili, has increased (The Post, July 18). The weather anomaly that has been happening is hypothesized to be linked with the very real and growing threat of climate change. However, adaptation strategies to deal with the problem are still unclear (Kompas, July 19).
“Banyak Spesies. Satu Planet. Satu Masa Depan”. Demikian tema Hari Lingkungan Hidup 5 Juni tahun ini. Tahun 2010 memang dijadikan sebagai tahun kampanye pentingnya biodiversitas. Selain ditetapkan sebagai Tahun Biodiversitas Internasional, pada Oktober mendatang juga akan dilangsungkan pertemuan para pihak Konvensi Keragaman Biologi di Jepang.
Mengapa isu keanekaragaman jenis makin penting? Meningkatnya laju kerusakan lingkungan dan habitat dipercayai sebagai faktor utama menurunnya biodiversitas dunia. Kerusakan habitat yang makin cepat menyebabkan dunia berada pada krisis biodiversitas. Jika lingkungan, terutama ekosistem tropis, terus-menerus dihancurkan, dalam seabad bumi akan kehilangan setengah spesies penghuninya.
”Kita sedang menuju kepunahan keenam!” ujar Richard Leakey (1996). Dalam sejarah, bumi telah melewati lima kejadian kepunahan. Semuanya disebabkan faktor fisik, yakni kejadian bencana dan perubahan iklim. Kepunahan terakhir pada Zaman Cretaceous ditandai dengan hilangnya fauna superbesar, seperti dinosaurus. Saat itu bumi juga kehilangan hampir dua per tiga spesies yang ada. Namun, kepunahan keenam tak disebabkan faktor fisik, tetapi biologis. Manusia sebagai anasir hayati memiliki kemampuan menghancurkan banyak entitas biologis lainnya, yang bisa memicu kepunahan biodiversitas.
We have witnessed rainy season disasters across this country for the last couple months. Floods have incurred significant economic losses. The latest flood along the Citarum River bank in West Java, for example, destroyed thousands of hectares of paddy fields and disrupted the textile industry. Considering what has already happened, we have adequate rational reasons to say that the problem will be much more complicated in the future. The fundamental question is: What have we learned from these disasters?
Floods in watershed areas correlate with damage to that area’s ecosystem. Vegetation loss on the surface makes soil unable to absorb rainwater. Consequently, the rate of run-off increases each time it rains. Eventually, rivers cannot absorb the excess run-off, causing floods.
The problem is not only evident during the rainy season. Another kind of disaster haunts the dry season. The soil’s inability to absorb water during the wetter months means underground water reservoirs are compromised, resulting in low river-water levels and drought during the dry season. Subsequently, economic activities will also be affected. Low water levels, for example, cannot run hydroelectric power turbines. Paddy fields also suffer from the lack of irrigation.
The Jakarta Post (Feb. 16) reported that the Forestry Ministry is planning to include oil palm estates to the forestry sector. Even though Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan denied the plan, an internal source at the ministry said that the decree is in progress (the Post, Feb. 23). This proposal automatically sparks controversy. Responses from the Post readers, for example, show that majority opposed the plan. Several regional governments, such as the North Sumatra Forestry Bureau, also rejected the plan.
The opposition to the plan is understandable. The anxiety that this will lead to more massive conversion of forest into oil palm plantations is the main reason, although the Forestry Ministry believes that this will not be the case. It is also suspected that the decree could become legalization for ongoing forest occupation by plantation companies.