NGOs  >  Central Kalamantan

I was not prepared for the extent of the environmental devastation that lay before me as I arrived in Central Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

I was there to photograph various aid projects for CARE Indonesia, and learned of (then) President Suharto’s 1995 project which cleared more than one million hectares of pristine peat swamp forest to grow rice. Farmers soon found out that the soil couldn’t grow rice nor enough substitute crops to exist. By the time the Rice Project was abandoned 4 years later the irreversible loss of the environment and its inhabitants was catastrophic. I was confronted by a wasteland, cleared of all vegetation, carved up by drainage canals and the logging of massive pristine rainforests.

Mass displacement of the Indigenous Dyak communities occurred and 60,000 farmers from Java became poverty stricken and disease ridden. Further destruction continued with the combination of dry peat and dead timber following a long dry season in 1997. Forest fires raged for weeks and thick smoke further affected people’s health.