The East Kalimantan Project
Indonesian Law and Reality in the Mahakam Delta
This research project departed from the observation that state law as well as local tenure arrangements largely failed to insure sustainable use of resources in the delta of the Mahakam River. From the 1990s onwards, deforestation, mining and extensive shrimp farming caused sedimentation and pollution as well as a sharp decline in shrimp pond productivity. Declining shrimp harvests became a major concern of local people who moved into the delta to make a living out of increasing shrimp prices since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
This project looked at these problems, focusing on the question why there was such a wide disparity between what the local government officials believed was legitimate, and what the law prescribed. One its conclusions is that the behavior of local government officials of not-effectively implementing formal rules was not solely motivated by their pursuit of personal interests or the interests of closely affiliated groups, but also by their social concerns as well as their sense of unfairness of particular situations.
As such the project provided an exploration of the challenges faced by local officials when balancing different interests and applying legal rules in a much-disputed environment. More generally, the project provided a framework for thinking of ways to both project environmentally vulnerable areas as well as the people living therein worldwide.