The Jakarta Post
The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) launched the Indonesian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015-2019 on Thursday in a bid to tap into the economic potential of the country's biodiversity.
The Bappenas deputy for environment and natural resources, Endah Murniningtyas, said the new document was an updated version of a blueprint published in 2003.
'The old document emphasizes the conservation aspect [of biodiversity]. But to be frank, the utilization of biodiversity, involving small and medium enterprise, labor and major industry, is very important,' she said during the launch of the new blueprint on Thursday.
Endah said that biodiversity represented an untapped economic potential for the nation, a figure thought to be worth more than Rp 3,134 trillion in 2012.
'I am sure the figure is an underestimate,' she said.
Endah said the country's biodiversity was worth a lot more as scientists had, thus far, only been able to identify 30 percent of the fauna and 50 percent of the flora in the archipelago.
'That's just the species, not the benefits that they have. One species could possess a dozen methods for utilization,' she said. 'It means that the potential is huge. We put this potential in our documentation. After that, we can conduct research on benefits'.
If the government were to possess complete information regarding the country's biodiversity, including potential benefits, it would be able to use the knowledge to attract investors.
'They could be local or foreign investors. That's why there will be a benefit sharing [mechanism],' Endah said.
In other countries, researchers have contracts with businesses, such as pharmaceutical companies, for benefit sharing. This is something that could be replicated in Indonesia, she said.
'That's why we already have a committee for research cooperation. But that's all, we don't usually follow up [on business opportunities] after the research is completed,' said Endah.
Many, however, have expressed a concern that the new action plan, by emphasizing the economic benefit of biodiversity, could threaten biodiversity itself.
The combination of natural hazard and human activity, including illegal logging and forest conversion, has caused severe ecological losses. The country could face further losses from the theft of genetic resources,
'There are many people who exploit biodiversity by violating existing regulations. This is known as biodiversity theft,' said Environment and Forestry Ministry director general for ecosystem and natural resource conservation Tachrir Fathoni. 'This theft is worsened by illegal logging, illegal trading and so on, all of which affect our biodiversity'.
Endah, however, said that the government would take extra measures to ensure that conservation would be a top priority.