Rivers of Borneo

Full panel title

Rivers of Borneo


Oliver Pye (Bonn University)

Date and time

Double session

12 August, 14:00 – 15:30
12 August, 16:00 – 17:30


Room 50


Session I

  • Between Conservation and Development: Local Perceptions from the Upper Part of the Barito River: A Case Study
    Andrea Höing (BRINCC (Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities), Kristina Grossmann (University Passau), Dominic Rowland (Center for Internatioanl Forstery Research)
  • A Political Ecology of the Kinabatangan River
    Clotilde Luquiau (Centre Asie du Sud-Est)
  • Between the River and the City: Water Politics in Pontianak
    Julia (Bonn University)
  • A Political Ecology of the Kapuas River
    Oliver Pye (Bonn University)

Session II

  • Participatory Hydro-Political Appraisals: River-Related Action Research along the Kapuas
    Irendra Radjawali (SOAS), Oliver Pye (Bonn University)
  • Back to Upriver Villages: Decentralization in Kalimantan and Recent Dayak Reflux Migration
    Bernard Sellato (CNRS)
  • Losing the Transportation Function: Road Development and the Transformation of the Buayan River
    Pujo Semedi (Gadjah Mada University)

Panel abstract

The mighty rivers of Borneo – the Kapuas, the Barito, the Mahakam, the Rajang and the Kinabatangan – are a defining feature of the islands ecology, culture and history. For centuries they have connected the upland forest-based indigenous peoples, the Iban, Punan etc. with lowland peoples and with coastal trading centres with trading ties to China and the World. Today, rice, trading of forest products and river fishing can only partly offer a livelihood perspective to the peoples of Borneo. Those developments taking place are creating processes of agrarian change that are transforming the rivers. Palm oil development, coal, bauxite and gold mining, fishing industries and illicit trading networks are all changing the political ecology of the rivers, not only by their impact on conservation areas and the polluting impacts downstream but also by the contradictions of income opportunities for some and the loss of autonomy and ways of life for others. In the coastal towns, urban development struggles with the dual challenge of drinking and sewage water that can no longer be met by the river. And all the rivers have their ultimate source in the “Heart of Borneo,” where conservation, carbon trading, and continuing logging exist uneasily side by side, often contravening indigenous adat rights.

This panel seeks to initiate a comparative analysis of the transformations affecting the rivers of Borneo and of the political responses taken by the different cities and governments to these challenges.