Thursday, January 31, 2008

Into the Zero Zone!

Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Late last year I made a short documentary for a local Dutch NGO about the Kalimantan MegaRice Project (aka Peat* Lands Restoration Project) here in Central Kalimantan. The film was part of a presentation at the Bali Climate Change Conference.

*Peat, a highly organic material found in marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter. It's one of those extremely delicate eco-systems, like wetlands, that is critical in the balance of all things nature.

The original 1996 MegaRice Project (sometimes called the Peat Lands Development Project), a Suharto government initiative, aimed at turning the very extensive peat lands of south Central Kalimantan into the Rice Bowl of Indonesia.

Unfortunately, the project was a grotesque failure on such a gargantuan scale that it beggars the mind; these words and pictures of mine fall miserably short of conveying the human and environmental misery.

Which did present a problem in the making of the film, I must say.

However, thankfully, the human heart is beautifully articulate organ both in joy and sorrow, and that is, of course, where you aim the camera, for better or worser. (It helps if you keep the lens clean.)

Briefly, re the very failed MegaRice Project (so as not to bore you with facts), after stripping the peat lands to the southeast of Palangkaraya - an area of land bigger than the Netherlands - of primary forest, constructing a network of canals, draining the peat swamps and shipping in some 15,000 immigrant families from all over Indonesia, the Suharto government finally had to acknowledge that peat lands don't make good paddy fields, but by then, of course, anything worth taking had been took, and who's gonna complain?

Greed and avarice blind us all, as any good Buddhist will tell you.

What we are left with today in south Central Kalimantan is fire, flood, drought, polluted waterways, bad soil, dead fish, dead animals, a disaffected local Dayak population forced to scratch a living from a once prosperous area, sama the transmigrant families who have managed to hang on (50% of the original transmigrant families returned home) and a flat expanse of arid land stretching the filmmaker's mind from horizon to horizon, whether he liked it or not.

The current Indonesian government is taking tentative steps to rectify the situation, but of course, what took a couple of years to de-construct will take a generation or three to put back together, if at all.

The Dream: 1996

Above: The (very recently) late President Suharto in jolly harvesting mood, and happy peasants all in a row - way to go! Pics from the original 1996 Indonesian government promotional film.

Above: Peat Land Development in Kalimantan, 1996.
The Mega Rice Project: The official Indonesian Government film.

Edited to 6 mins from the original 15 mins.
1. This is NOT my film, this is NOT my film, this is NOT my film.
2. Have a close listen to the Environmental Poodle Speak. It is truly a seamless work of art.
3. The voice-over guy is one Mr Paul W. Blair, obviously from North America, and nobody on planet earth pronounces KAR-LEE-MARN-TARN quite the way he does. I'm with you, Pak!

Below: 2008, the God-awful reality...
Ain't nothin' much growin' out there, Pak!


Anonymous said...

Although it was the cycling story that first brought me here, I have to say your blog is still successfully showing me things I would never have known about otherwise. Keep the strange stories coming. Thankyou Pak Peelips :)

Felix and Mr Pumpy said...

Yo Mr Offtopic,

Mr Pumpy, Mr Felix, Pak Peelips and now Mr Offtopic... where are all these Misters and Paks coming from... or even better where are they going? Who knows....

This is also, Pak Optopips (as they'd call you in Indonesia), part of my new resolve to answer the comments in my comments section....

So thanks for the note, and the kind words, and I'll get down to even more strange stuff soon, seeing as I balk a lot at really putting down what my experience is, believe it or not.

It's not easy sometimes when you're trying to talk about things from the 9th valency in 4th valency terminology, which is where words exist; and the general mind of the average punter is not necessarily open to anything much past the 6th.. the Bruce Willis film was good.... but the issue is one of credibility, ego and lunacy... although that might be more than one.
Credibility - what to believe, what is real, what to trust in.
Ego and lunacy together being a dangerous combination, and I've known a few.
You know, seeing as this seems now to be coming a minor flood, and assuming you've read the stories on the blog, I never have talked publicly about what I found at the Back of the Green Gibbon.
In some ways I suspect the rejigging of the blog recently, is myself gunning up for that... but then why talk about this stuff anyway?
Primarily, it interests me more than anything else on planet earth (although I admit, women, the eternal interest factor, may be a tad in front... it's hard to say...) and secondly, as I move about the ex-colonies, and I chat to folk on the road, and I open up about things inner-journey, I'm always surprised by the interest folks show in it; and the hunger for meaning that seems to be screaming, often incoherently, at the base of peoples' hearts.
I see it, personally, as a deep craving for inner satisfaction, and inner belief, inner sureness (surity? sp?), although some of my friends back home in sweet Melbourne have a problem with the word belief.
But is my contention that the Grail exists - as real as this table my computer sits on, as real as these words, notwithstanding the fact that the Grail does have many names, and forms, but it's all the one thing.
You've just got to reach far enough... and how far is 'far enough'? Why, past your Self, of course.
Anyway, Pak Optopips, that all may be well off topic for all I know, swerving in a shining tangential arc out of orbit, heading for Darwin IV, a planet in the Darwin cluster, some 4 light years away, I think.
What on earth am I talking about? I gues it will become clear in the writing....
OK, thanks for the comment! :)
All the best to you.

Anonymous said...

Your response gives me the impression you haven't had a good heart to heart discussion with another english speaker in a while, I could be way off, please don't let my asumptions offend you.
But anyway, I will definately continue to read your stuff, some of it was rather addictive and I couldn't leave it alone until I had finished it, I loved the "white horse" part, I could really identify with it.

Btw I will use my new name with pride! lol :)

Felix and Mr Pumpy said...

Teman Optopips yang baik,
.. which translates as my good friend, Mr Offtopic...
No, plenty of heart to hearts, although it's always a question of quality, not quantity, and that finger touch from a friend who puts it, with affection, right where the itch is, and I'm not talking about sex.
The problem is, of course, that the written word is so much more Black and White than the spoken word, and it's public, and open to all. Scary.
However, that's actually very good to hear that you like the White Horse stuff, 'cos in fact, it goes to the heart, I think, of whatever it is I'm on about, and the problem with writing is often finding the right form, the right language to use.
Personally, I like Dreamscapes.
So well and good, and there's more to come.
OK, stay cool, and keep going, all the way, wherever the Heart (that most intelligent of organs) leads... why stop for the Yapping of Poodles?


Anonymous said...

I think I have alot to learn about life, you are on my list of favourite teachers.

HarmonyCreekBrewery said...

Greetings Pak Peelips, is your documentary going to be available for viewing anytime soon?