Elon Musk’s latest and ambitious Space X project has found its launch site as Indonesia has offered one of its islands in West Papua for it.
However, Mr. Musk has not agreed to the offer yet as but Indonesia has made it clear that Biak Island can be a potential launch site. This news is worrying the native residents over very much.
Biak Island is home to many people, Including Markus Abrauw who has spent his whole life there.
Markus is a 54 years old man and a grandfather to eight. They all belong to the island’s indigenous Abrauw clan who has been living there for many years and generations.
The old man is quite worried about their homeland as it is going to be the next launch site. He said to the reporters, “If it is built, it would mean our children and grandchildren would no longer be able to rely on the land to make a living.”
He also showed his concern about nature by saying, “It would destroy the sea and forests.”
Biak is a rich island that spans up to 1,746 square kilometers, which is slightly bigger than the city of London. It is located in West Papua, the Indonesian portion of New Guinea. Around 100,000 people live there.
The island is the homeland for more than a dozen of different indigenous ethnic groups including the Abrauw clan. Though there are some Urban centers, most of the part of the island is relatively rural.
Sophie Chao, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney said in an interview, “Most Papuans in the area still derive their subsistence from the area around them – fishing, gathering – they are still very much dependent on their surroundings.”
On the other hand, Biak has some potential features that can attract any space ambitious organization.
The island is enriched with nickel and copper which is widely used to manufacture rockets. Also, the location is just 1 degree below the equator which is apt to launch any spacecraft as it will consume less fuel to reach orbit.
Indonesia’s Aeronautical and Space Agency (Lapan) has its eye on the island for many decades. In 1980, it has even bought a 100-hectare parcel of land. However, due to several obstacles and challenges, nothing happened yet.
This site is an important hunting ground with a fishing spot for the residents over there. The nearest residential area, Saukobye village is 2 km far from there. The villagers are in fear that they would have to relocate.
Mr. Abrauw said, “We cannot move to any other place. If we are, there will be hereditary killings. There will be a conflict between clans that have the rights to the land, and clans who want to enter the land.”
Ms. Chao said, “Biak is a place of many dreams – but these dreams cannot all be realized.”