Tropical forests cover Indonesia’s abundance of islands stretching from east to west, amounting to 10 percent of the world’s tropical forests, which is more than any other country except Brazil and Congo. Providing habitat to a wide range of biodiversity including alpine belt vegetation, the tropical forest resources of Indonesia include rain forests, seasonal forests, mangroves and savanna forests. Spanning the zoogeographical Oriental and Australasia provinces, the islands have provided isolated environments for species to evolve independently of other biological systems. As a result, Indonesia is known today as featuring the highest biodiversity in the world. The special conditions in Indonesia have resulted in a distribution of some 325,000 or 20 percent of the world’s species, despite having only 1.3 percent of the world's land. Included in this biodiversity is 10 percent (just under 30 thousand species) of the world’s seed plants, 60 percent of which are endemic to Indonesia. Despite such a prominent biodiversity, the number of species decreases year by year due to such factors as economic development resulting from the increasing human population, commercial and illegal deforestation, and forest fires. In its National Development Plan, the Indonesian government has included “the reinforcement of sustainable and equitable development infrastructure based on promoting economic reconstruction and the national economic system” as one of five areas of importance, and stresses that the “development of natural resources and the environment” is required for success. Specific measures being taken are surveys and evaluations of the latent potential of biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity, citizen participation in conservation activities, and the promotion of environmental education and awareness activities for citizens.
The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) was formed directly under the Indonesian president with the expectation that its primary role would be to conserve biodiversity in the nation. Established under the LIPI is the Research Center for Biology (RCB). Composed of a zoological, a botanical and a microbiological division, the RCB formulates a national biological research policy. The RCB plays an extensive role in the overall monitoring and evaluation of biological research activities as well as implementing specimen management and fundamental research. Using grant aid, the Japanese government supplied the zoological division of the RCB with research facilities and a specimen repository during 1995 and 1996, and JICA also provided technical cooperation to support research in the eight years from July 1995 to June 2003 under its Biodiversity Conservation Project
The RCB’s historical animal specimen facility was constructed in 1817 in Bogor by the Dutch, who ruled as a suzerain over Indonesia at the time. Specimens have been stored there since the 1800s and now exceed 1.6 million in number, a magnitude of scale vastly surpassing the specimen repositories of any developing nation including all of the ASEAN countries. Despite being widely recognized as a storage facility with a global value, the Bogor facility has fallen into decrepitude, a condition that threatens the viability of these valuable samples.
The Indonesian government has not been merely a passive keeper of those valuable specimens, but has taken them into its care with the potential value they hold as a biodiversity resource of the state as well as an asset of the people, expanding its scope of basic research and educating Indonesian researchers. With the object of continuing their efforts to rediscover the economic value of these specimens, the Indonesian government has requested Japanese government for assistance in creating new facilities. Japanese government has responded with grant aid to construct two new research facilities (for the botany and microbiology divisions) and a repository at the RCB.
The objective of the project is to achieve the goals established when the biodiversity center for botany and microbiology research was first constructed with grant aid from the Japanese government and to ensure its maintenance and operations are carried out properly. Those goals are to: strengthen the capacity to store plant and microorganism specimens, consolidate the research facilities which are currently scattered, and add the capacity of environmental education. Of these goals, the second one may be considered complete as the facility has already been constructed. Specific assistance includes: