Indonesian Government Plans Ambitious Road and Railroad Project in West Papua

The Indonesian Government has planned to push physical development in West Papua through the implementation of an ambitious rail road and road project in West Papua. Both projects should make the transportation of goods and people cheaper and increase the local economy in Indonesia's two easternmost provinces. The Indonesian President Joko Widodo has publicly stated that he intends to finish the Trans-Papua Road by 2019. Furthermore, he has passed plans for the construction of a railroad which should one day connect the Papuan cities Sorong, Manokwari, Nabire, Timika, Sarmi and Jayapura.

The completion of the 390 km long railroad from Sorong to Manokwari is planned for 2019. First surveys and environmental impact assessments for this railroad will have been be carried out by the end of 2016. According to the project planning of the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, construction-related land tenure issues should be clarified and resolved in 2017, so that construction works may begin in 2018. Moreover, a 205 km railroad connection from Sarmi to Jayapura will be built in 2020. The construction of both railroad tracks is estimated to cost 10.3 trillion Rupiahs and will be financed from the national development budget (see image below).

Jalur Kereta Papua Infografis Detikfinance 

President 'Jokowi' has similar plans for the completion of a trans Papua road, that should be 4.300 km long and is estimated to cost around 15 trillion rupiahs. According to the head of the road building department for region X (Provinces Papua and Papua Barat) Oesman Marbun, 827 km of the entire trans Papua road are still covered with primary rain forest which needs to be cleared until 2018. The road will connect the western part with the eastern part of West Papuan  through a major road connection along the northern coast line, with connecting roads to the cities in the central highlands and the south. Parts of the Trans-Papua Road had already been finished in the past years but repeatedly had to be stopped due to lack of funds and the difficult project area. Now, the gaps between the already existing parts of the road should be closed until 2019.

Presidential regulation (Perpres) No. 40 of 2013 about the acceleration of development in the provinces Papua and Papua Barat states that parts of the duties and authority for the completion of the road are handed over to the Indonesian military TNI, whereas the rest of the road system will be established under responsibility of the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works (see map below: red roads mark existing roads; blue roads mark roads under responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works; yellow roads mark roads under responsibility of TNI). The involvement of the Indonesian military, which has been held responsible for numerous human rights violations in West Papau, is widely criticized amongst civil society in West Papua.

 Peta Rencana Jalan Papua

Many indigenous communities fear that the presence of military personnel due to development projects might result in frequent human rights violations, especially in those affected communities that are reluctant towards the ambitious government plans. For most parts of the Trans Papua Road, the clarification of land tenure related issues only exists on paper yet and at the same time poses an omnipresent challenge for the Indonesian government. Existing large scale government project like the MIFEE project have shown that its implementation has lead to the increase of human rights violations and the marginalization of indigenous communities in West Papua.