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Jakarta Post

RI indigenous groups awarded for conservation

M. Taufiqurrahman
Jakarta   ●   Mon, December 14, 2015

A local tribe from East Kalimantan and a green group from Belitung, Bangka-Belitung province, have won prestigious UN Development Program (UNDP) green awards for their efforts to protect the environment and advance sustainable development.

The Dayak Benuaq tribe from Muara Tae village in West Kutai, East Kalimantan, won the 2015 Equator Prize Award for protecting its forests from the encroachment of palm oil companies and coal mining firms.

The local green group Belitung Conservation Community, meanwhile, won the award for its work in rehabilitating, protecting and sustainably managing coastal resources in the province.

Representatives from the two groups joined members of 16 indigenous communities at a ceremony at the Mogador Theater in Paris last week to receive their awards. The ceremony was part of numerous sideline events at the COP21 climate conference in Paris.

Joining the winners to receive the awards were Hollywood superstar and environmental activist Alec Baldwin, UNDP administrator Helen Clark and Frances Seymour from the Center for Global Development.

The Dayak Benuaq tribe started its conservation efforts after losing 8,000 hectares of a total 12,000 ha of customary forests between 1993 and 2013 to mining and palm oil companies.

The local administration has deemed the tribe, which is now dealing with health problems and food and water shortages resulting from massive deforestation, as '€œantidevelopment'€ for rejecting a government request to give up its remaining 4,000 ha of forest to coal and palm oil companies.

The Belitung Conservation Community, meanwhile, was honored for its projects in the management of coral reefs, mangroves, fishing zones and tropical forests on the island.

The Equator Initiative, which is funded by the UNDP, said the group'€™s efforts had led to improved livelihoods and the restoration of a unique marine and coastal ecosystem.

Clark said that the two communities, along with 16 other winners, were true warriors in the fight against climate change.

'€œOur winners are not just sitting waiting for the new agreement. They are doing whatever they can to adapt to climate change and achieve sustainability for their community. They are thinking globally although they are acting locally. Their efforts are inspiring,'€ Clark said in her speech to honor the awardees.

Seymour, meanwhile, said indigenous people had played indispensable roles in protecting ecosystems.

'€œThe evidence is clear that the presence of indigenous people is consistently associated with lower deforestation,'€ she said.

Baldwin said that the groups'€™ accomplishments could set an example for people around the world.

'€œI hope that you will each take the stories of the winners'€™ achievement and ingenuity with you to your respective sphere of influence,'€ he said.