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Jakarta Post

Jokowi asked to handle pollution in Lake Toba

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Fri, May 22, 2015   /  06:30 am

A number of NGOs affiliated with the Jalin D'€™toba forum have urged President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo to address environmental damage and water pollution in seven regencies around Lake Toba.

'€œWe have submitted data on the damaged ecosystem in the Lake Toba area, including water pollution and deforestation. We are now waiting for the President to voice his commitment to restoring the damaged environment around Lake Toba,'€ Jalin D'€™toba coordinator Murni Huber told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Murni said the Batak community had long complained about environmental destruction and water pollution in Lake Toba.

However, she said, the government had yet to show any signs that it would restore the damaged area.

Murni said the community had reported water pollution in six locations, namely Panatapan and Haranggaol in Simalungun regency, Simalombu and Pangururan in Samosir regency, Ajitaba in Toba Samosir and Silalahi in Dairi regency.

Phytoplankton and zooplankton specimen analysis conducted by the Environmental Health Technical Center in 2013 and 2014 at a number of points categorized water in Lake Toba as contaminated.

Humbang Hasundutan resident Kristina Simamora said the damaged Lake Toba ecosystem had seriously affected the lives of residents living around Lake Toba.

Kristina cited that deforestation had affected rice production on account of soil runoff during rain, thus causing yields to drop by around 30 percent.

She further said fish production had also dropped due to worsening water quality in Lake Toba, as most of the fish had died from the effects of excessive fish fodder.

In February this year, the North Sumatra Council held a hearing with community groups and a number of companies blamed for polluting the ecosystem around Lake Toba.

In the meeting, the council recommended the establishment of a special committee, calling on companies operating around Lake Toba to halt logging activities, returning customary land rights and ending all forms of intimidation against the people, as well as urging all companies to apply for operating permits.

Separately, PT Aquafarm Nusantara, one of the biggest floating net cage (keramba) fishery companies in Lake Toba, acknowledged the food pellets they scattered in a number of keramba in Lake Toba had caused a decrease in water quality, but not significantly.

'€œThere is impact, but it'€™s not fair to place the blame on us alone,'€ said Saruhum, from the Swiss-based Aquafarm Nusantara.

Similarly, West Sumatra is also facing pollution problems in Lake Maninjau in Agem regency due to the operations of fishing companies with their karamba. Last year, hundreds of tons of fish died in the lake.

The West Sumatra Environmental Management Agency recently urged the Agam administration to remove 10,000 keramba from the lake to prevent further damage to the environment.

The lake is currently home to more than 16,000 keramba owned by local residents and entrepreneurs, despite a maximum capacity of 6,000 cages.

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