Wed, 24 May 2000

City told to act in exploring Seribu islands

JAKARTA (JP): The 104 islands grouped in the Seribu (Thousand) Islands in the Java Sea could be a gold mine of revenue for the city administration should the latter spend time exploring and monitoring the area, an official said.

Speaking in a hearing at the city council on Monday with councillors from Commission D on public works, environmental and development affairs, head of the Jakarta Mining Agency Ali Rozi said the city earned up to some US$12.18 million (about Rp 103.6 billion under the current currency rate) per annum from Seribu Islands' oil and gas production alone.

"The oil and gas are produced by two foreign oil companies, ARCO and YPF Maxus at Pabelokan Island, that produced 25,987 barrels of oil and 382,587 cubic meters of gas a day," he said.

In comparison, the ongoing April-December 2000 City Budget is set at Rp 3.39 trillion.

"Besides, there are some 4.3 billion cubic meters of quartz sand offshore (common on most of the islands) which have yet to be explored," he told the councillors.

The meeting, led by the commission's chairman, Sayogo Hendrosubroto of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction, was also attended by head of City Museum Agency, Robert Silalahi, assistant of North Jakarta Mayor Alisten Radjagukguk and head of the City Program Office D. Rahmat.

The hearing was aimed at examining and exploring the potential of the islands in accordance with the city administration's plan to upgrade the islands' status from a district to a regency.

Currently, the Seribu Islands are under the supervision of the North Jakarta mayoralty.

Under its new status, the area would have its own authority and would be held directly under the supervision of the Jakarta Administration.

In the past, the vast area consisted of 110 islands.

Since 1985, six islands have sunk below the surface due to water abrasion and land dredging used for building construction in Jakarta.

"And now at least four other islands have been also threatened by the water abrasion," said Robert Silalahi.

The islands -- Onrust, Bidadari, Cipir and Kelor -- have been gradually eroding since 1911.

Onrust island, for example, has lost almost half of its original size -- going from 12 hectares down to seven.

Its neighbor, Bidadari Island, has shrunk from 85 heactares to 6.5 hectares, Robert explained.

"The worst thing is that all of the four islands have been home to many archeological sites that badly need to be maintained and preserved.

Unfortunately, the islands are now under serious threat due to erosion," he added.

The Martelo fortress on Onrust Island, for instance, has already been badly damaged, Robert said.

According to Robert, many of the islands do not receive adequate care and lack attractions that would lure tourists to their destinations and bring in badly need money for conservation efforts.

"The conditions on most of the islands are very poor. Tourists are also reluctant to come because they find nothing to do there," he said.

In order to prevent more sea erosion, the City Museum Agency together with the City Public Work Agency has agreed to build concrete blocks in combination with mangrove trees along the coast of the affected islands.

The details of the work plan will be revealed soon.

Most of the councillors blamed the city administration and North Jakarta officials for paying little or no attention to the Seribu Islands, which have been widely known among world-class travelers as being one of Indonesia's most attractive sites for diving.

"I have even been told that head of the Seribu Islands district seldom stays on the islands," said councillor Tjuk Sudono from the National Mandate Party.

The commission chairman then summed up the hearing by calling on the city administration to improve tourism development, private sector contribution, the development of the mining sector and put forth more effort in monitoring the islands.

According to Alisten from the North Jakarta mayoralty, 71 islands are already managed by private companies for various activities, mostly involving tourist resorts and golf courses.

Meanwhile, several officials, including head of the Seribu Islands National Park Achmad Abdullah, City Tourism Agency Witjaksono Muwardi and head of archeology section at Jakarta Restoration and Museum Agency Candrain Atahyat, suggested that the city administration should stop chartering the islands to private parties.

The officials were quoted as saying by Kompas on Tuesday that the preliminary ownership of the individuals only damaged the ecosystem in the area.

At least 37 islands have been developed into tourist and entertainment resorts, it said.

"It's been suggested that the islands should not be managed by individuals. But if it's the only option available, the appointed parties should follow 1994 government regulation number 18 on natural preserves," Achmad said. (09/bsr)