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The people of Indonesia’s Papua island are incensed.
The reason? Elon Musk’s SpaceX was permitted by the Indonesian government to use the tiny Biak island for his spaceport.
According to the Guardian, the Indonesian government claimed that the spaceport was being built following consultations with the Papuan government and locals. It’s understood that the presence of SpaceX could potentially lift the island’s economy.
But West Papuans are concerned about the environmental impact.
Western New Guinea or West Papua marked in red. IMAGE: Wikipedia.
Sure, economic impact is one thing but for the West Papuans residing on Biak, it would mean the destruction of the island’s ecosystem.
See, building the spaceport would require the chopping down of trees and an increase in military presence. For them, these are signs that their future could be threatened as the tribes would lose their hunting grounds.
Manfun Sroyer, the tribe chief on Biak island, said he’s fearful of seeing his people driven away from their homes. Protesting is out of the question, Sroyer said.
“If we protest, we’ll be arrested immediately,” he said to the Guardian.
SpaceX would not be the only player.
Turns out, Indonesia even struck a deal with Russian space agency Roscosmos to turn parts of Biak island into a rocket launch site. The development of the site is expected to be completed in 2024.
The tribes now fear harassment and intimidation in the form of arrests if they choose to protest.
A price to pay.
West Papuans believe that they’ll lose their island and way of life when Elon Musk’s SpaceX arrives. IMAGE: Ecologist.
For the Indonesian government, however, both deals would not only boost its image and economy but also quell the secessionist campaign that has been ongoing for decades. Furthermore, the island is strategic for launching low-orbit satellites since they take less fuel. Not to mention the island is also filled with natural resources.
For Musk to strike the deal, it’s a boon since Biak island is rich with copper and nickel — two important metals to create rockets and long-range batteries for electric vehicles (EV) developed by Tesla.
Musk’s 12,000 Starlink satellites are expected to provide affordable high-speed internet when they go into orbit by 2026.
The Indonesian government is aware of this and aims to strike a deal with Musk to get Tesla into Indonesia. The country envisions itself to become Southeast Asia’s second-biggest EV producer.
Despite Musk promising a “giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way”, the reality hits home for West Papuans.
Technological advancements in the form of EVs and planetary exploration come with a huge price: The extinction of indigenous cultures of West Papua.
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ที่มา : Mashable