Imbalanced economic powers in a degrading environment : A study into the power position of citizens and palm oil companies and the influences of their activities on the environment in the sub-district of Jempang, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

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In the last decennia, the policy of the Indonesian government has created an economy that is based on the export and exploitation of the natural resources. Most of these actors are focused on short term benefits and do not take any account of the consequences for the environment and human population. Since the arrival of palm oil companies in the sub-district of Jempang, East Kalimantan, during the mid-nineties, the power positions of actors has changed significantly, just as the state of the environment did. Gradually, the Indonesian government has realised that the political decentralisation has a large negative influence on the environment. Therefore there is a rising demand for more research and possible policy and legislative recommendations to reduce the ecological and social problems in the middle Mahakam lake area; the wetland area where the research location is situated. This area is of prime ecological value due to its unique features, such as shallow lakes, freshwater swamps and mangrove forests, and the existence of rare and endangered species. Its ecosystems are threatened, mainly due to economic activities such as logging, mining and the establishment of oil palm plantations. The context of the research location is a typical example where economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental factors become interwoven and can be considered extremely complex and problematic at the same time. The central question of this research is formulated as follows: To what extent do citizens, palm oil companies and governmental bodies influence the environment in the subdistrict of Jempang, how is this related to their power position and what are the possibilities for a more sustainable future?
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