The Jakarta Post
It has been five years since the groundbreaking of the Batam Botanical Gardens in Batam, Riau Islands, in August 2014, but few facilities are open to visitors in the 86-hectare complex, which includes a main gate as a photo backdrop, colorful gardens as well as hothouses.
However, the limited facilities have not discouraged local and international tourists from visiting the gardens, which recorded their highest attendance last month.
The gardens' chief supervisor, Mohammad Rozik, said less than 1,000 visitors had visited the gardens every month since they were opened to the public in December 2018. Most have been elementary and junior high school students visiting for an educational field trip.
It was not until January this year that the gardens saw a significant increase in attendance, jumping to 3,544 people for the month.
“For now, visitors can come to the botanical gardens for free because the number of attractions is still limited,” Rozik told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
He added that most visitors came to the gardens on weekends and holidays. For example, the management recorded 1,800 visitors a day during New Year’s holiday season. The gardens were also visited by 380 visitors during the Lunar New Year holiday on Jan. 25.
“The visitors were not only local residents, but also foreign tourists,” Rozik said.
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The construction of the botanical gardens had been planned since 2008 by various institutions, including the Public Works and Housing Ministry, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) as well as regional administrations. It was designated as a conservation area for coastal plants.
Then-public works minister Djoko Kirmanto attended the groundbreaking ceremony in August 2014, with the early stages of the project dedicated to building basic facilities such as the main gate, roads, management offices and other facilities.
The road leading to the Batam Botanical Gardens in Batam, Riau Islands. (JP/Fadli)
Visitors have since come to take photos and selfies in the colorful gardens and palm park and around the artificial lake. However, these sites are not open every day because of the limited number of staff.
“For example, we only open the lake to the public several days a week. We are worried about not having anyone to watch to keep the visitors safe,” Rozik said.
As of today, the Batam Botanical Gardens management only employs 14 staff – not enough to handle the 86 ha space. By comparison, the Bogor Botanical Gardens in West Java is just as large, but is maintained by a staff of 400.
Despite their limited number, the employees have focused on improving the botanical gardens so they can be completed within the next few years, Rozik added.
According to the management, the Batam Botanical Gardens hold a collection of 5,349 plants from 430 different species.
Batam Botanical Gardens chief supervisor Mohammad Rozik tends to plants in a hothouse. (JP/Fadli)
“We will also open a mangrove forest, which can be accessed from the Nongsa Pura port. Tourists are looking forward to visiting the mangroves,” said Rozik. Mangroves are considered important for protecting coastlines from erosion.
Once the mangrove forest is opened, the botanical gardens will cover 100 ha – larger than the Bogor Botanical Gardens and the 74 ha Singapore Botanical Gardens.
The Batam Botanical Gardens are one of 12 botanical gardens the government plans to build within the next five years. The government has allocated Rp 1.2 trillion (US$87 million) to build these gardens as part of its efforts to preserve the country's biodiversity.
A large of portion of the funds – Rp 336 billion – was allocated for the gardens in Batam and has been disbursed gradually since 2014. However, the management of the gardens missed its operational target for 2019.
“If you asked me when the gardens would be finished, I couldn't answer. It depends on the government’s budget,” Rozik said.