March 28, 2023

Sepaku, East Kalimantan – 68-year-old Sernai lives in a wood home that after belonged to her great-great-grandparents.

It’s a easy residence — there is no such thing as a glass within the home windows, and it’s principally unfurnished.

That is the place she has lived her complete life. However her village is now not the quiet place she associates along with her childhood. Lately, she wakes up each morning to the sound of heavy equipment in her again yard.

Indonesia is constructing a brand new capital metropolis in East Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. Town will probably be referred to as Nusantara, and it’ll substitute the present capital Jakarta, an overcrowded and polluted metropolis and the world’s fastest-sinking metropolis.

Sernai’s village, the place she lives with fellow Balik Indigenous individuals, will finally be a part of the brand new metropolis.

“Folks from the capital are coming. They’re pushing us out. They may take my home finally,” she advised Al Jazeera. She misplaced a part of her home and farmland to assemble an consumption reservoir for a dam to service the brand new capital. “We won’t even get water anymore as a result of the river is blocked. The river was once our supply of life. We’d drink from it, bathe there, and use it for cooking. Now we will not entry it anymore.”

Sernai stated the federal government gave her household, which incorporates her 17 grandchildren, about $3,000 in compensation.

Sernai in a long red dress with a striking blue and green formal pattern.  She is standing outside her house and construction can be seen going on in the background through the foliage.
Sernai says her household now depends on native authorities to deliver them water since they now not have entry to the river. When Al Jazeera visited her residence, the water tank was empty [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

However she stated it’s not sufficient to make up for the disruption to their lives.

“We used to plant coconuts and plums. There have been rows of timber, and they’re all gone now. We had every kind of fruits that we might promote on the market, like mango. Now, there may be nothing we are able to promote,” she stated. “We used to reside good lives, we by no means had to purchase issues like wooden, water or greens. Now, we reside depressing lives,” Sernai stated.

‘Sacrificed within the title of nationwide improvement’

The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of Nusantara (AMAN) estimates that no less than 20,000 Indigenous individuals will probably be relocated as building on Nusantara progresses.

“Indigenous individuals additionally want improvement, however this sort of improvement will destroy them,” stated AMAN’s Muhammad Arman. “When the brand new capital is absolutely developed, there will probably be migration of individuals from different locations. Indigenous individuals will find yourself pushed out of their land, it is only a matter of time. Growth mustn’t violate the human rights of Indigenous individuals, they can not simply be sacrificed within the title of nationwide improvement.”

Advocacy teams like AMAN say one of many predominant challenges for Indigenous individuals is proving land possession to safe compensation.

“Indigenous individuals’s land possession shouldn’t be thought of to have robust legality, if there is no such thing as a certificates. So, they’re thought of to be staying on land they do not personal,” Arman stated. “The inheritance of land in Indigenous communities shouldn’t be seen as authorized.”

A white marker with a red top amid undergrowth.  The marker has the letter B on it with IKN below that and 588 after that.
A marker that Atim discovered on his land. IKN stands for Ibu Kota Negara (capital metropolis). [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

Atim, who can also be Balik, advised Al Jazeera he fears he might quickly lose his land to the event.

“My plantation is inherited from my ancestors. So many people haven’t got paperwork. Our proof is in our historical past. Again then, issues weren’t sophisticated, individuals did not want written issues. Now we have to show our possession,” he stated. “Many individuals have already felt the impression of the water consumption improvement. They stated they solely wanted one or two metres, however they ended up taking increasingly land.”

Atim stated he feels his group is being disrespected and disenfranchised by the Indonesian authorities. A couple of weeks in the past, he discovered stakes in his plantation with the letters IKN — Ibu Kota Negara, that means the nation’s capital — painted on them. He stated nobody has advised him what the stakes imply.

“They act like we do not exist. They act like we’re not human. I settle for the brand new capital however do not dismiss our rights. They need to construct one thing by destroying what’s already right here,” he stated. “There is no such thing as a communication. They contain individuals from different districts, however by no means us. We do not know what is going on.

‘Room for dialogue’

The pinnacle of the Nusantara Capital Authority is Bambang Susantonoan engineer and economist appointed to steer the venture in early 2022.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, he stated the federal government is taking steps to be inclusive of Indigenous peoples and to permit them to be extra concerned. “We’ve got to respect them. The Indigenous individuals, the native knowledge. That needs to be a part of our improvement course of,” he stated. “We’ll give some room for dialogue, to allow them to have dialogue with us. Not simply with us however with all of the stakeholders. Generally, there could also be disagreements, so we have now to see the social and anthropological research associated to this and put that as supplies for these instances.”

Atim standing in a grove of palm trees with houses in the distance.  He is wearing a white polo short with a blue pattern and collar.  He has a moustache.
Atim believes different residents, together with individuals from different provinces, are being prioritized over the rights of Indigenous peoples. [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]
Sibukdin standing near an oil palm tree with houses behind him.  He is wearing a patterned shirt and with a yellow scarf with tassels at the end draped around his neck.  He is also wearing a traditional black hat with gold embroidery.
Sibukdin, the pinnacle of the Balik tribe, stated historic websites like graveyards present proof of how lengthy his individuals have lived on their land [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

The federal government has promoted initiatives like coaching packages for locals as consultant of the advantages the brand new capital improvement will provide individuals in East Kalimantan. A few of these embrace workshops to show individuals digital abilities or new farming strategies.

Al Jazeera met some residents of Sepaku who had been proud contributors in such packages — they stated these initiatives had modified their lives for the higher.

Sri Sudarwati, whose mother and father migrated to East Kalimantan within the Seventies, participated in coaching to be taught hydroponic planting strategies along with her neighbors. She stated the brand new capital venture, and the eye it has dropped at her village, have improved her high quality of life.

“With the brand new capital, they opened up so many coaching alternatives. This hydroponic gardening has helped my household’s earnings quite a bit. My life has completely modified,” she stated. “Earlier than the brand new capital plan, we by no means obtained any consideration. Folks did not know the place Sepaku was, we had been very backward. I need to advise different individuals, do not assume an excessive amount of. Let’s be grateful about Sepaku being a part of the capital.”

Such recommendation is poorly obtained by Balik individuals, together with their chief Sibukdin, who advised Al Jazeera he fears the event will spell catastrophe for his group.

“We do not need to be relocated from the land of our ancestors. And we really feel our land will probably be taken by the federal government. They stated this capital is for the welfare of all Indonesians? However which Indonesians? We do not really feel it is for us,” he stated. “They’ll simply erase our rights. Such is the greatness of individuals in authority. We contemplate our historic websites to be the supply of our energy. However they even moved the graves of our ancestors. The brand new capital is haunting us, and haunting the way forward for our kids too.”

Women working in a nursery.  They are planting seedlings in raised pipes.  The edge of the forest is behind them.  They look very happy with what they are doing.
Sri Sudarwati (left), whose mother and father moved to the world from Java within the Seventies, stated the roads constructed for brand new capital improvement have shortened the time it takes for her to journey from her village to the closest main metropolis, Balikpapan, from nearly three hours to only one [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

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