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Conflicts Over Trees and Waves on Siberut Island

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The paper describes some recent developments with respect to logging operations and the tourist industry on the island of Siberut (West Sumatra, Indonesia). It discusses these developments from the perspective of the notions of equitable access and benefit sharing and prior informed consent. These are often referred to as basic principles in dealing with external intervention within the territory of indigenous peoples. After the initial logging boom during the 1970s and 1980s about half of the island was declared a nature reserve in the early 1990s. All logging operations were terminated. Backpack tourism started to develop more or less simultaneously, stimulated by the lure of a Stone Age culture on a tropical paradise island. This contributed greatly to the efforts to safeguard the island's rich biodiversity. Recently, however, a new form of logging started on the island, with a university as concession holder. But also a new kind of tourism discovered Siberut: its waves are supposed to be of excellent quality and allow for first-class surfing. As a result of regional autonomy and the process of democratisation in Indonesia, the local people are not willing to accept these new forms of resource use without at least sharing in their benefits. This paper is based on extensive periods of fieldwork on Siberut over the past twenty years.

Keywords: Siberut Island; external interventions; indigenous people; logging; tourism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Publication date: December 1, 2003


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