Re­sort boss to face trial over co­ral de­struc­tion

The Jakarta Post - - ARCHIPELAGO - Sy­ofi­ardi Bachyul Jb

Au­thor­i­ties in West Su­ma­tra have wrapped up their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a busi­ness­man ac­cused of har­vest­ing co­ral reefs for con­struc­tion ma­te­rial to build a re­sort at a se­cluded beach in the prov­ince.

The sus­pect, iden­ti­fied only as IG, is the di­rec­tor of the Suwar­nad­wipa Beach and Re­sort on the south­west­ern coast of Padang. He is now un­der the cus­tody of the Padang District Pros­e­cu­tors’ Of­fice, which will soon bring the case to court, said West Su­ma­tra Mar­itime Af­fairs and Fish­eries Agency head Yos­meri.

If found guilty, IG faces up to 10 years of im­pris­on­ment in the first co­ral reef dam­age case to be brought to court in West Su­ma­tra.

“IG built the re­sort last year by har­vest­ing 163.64 cu­bic me­ters of co­ral reef ma­te­rial near the re­sort and us­ing it to build foun­da­tions, fences and or­na­ments on walls,” Yos­meri said on Thurs­day.

The case started when the agency re­ceived a re­port from lo­cal res­i­dents in Fe­bru­ary.

In re­sponse to the case, Yos­meri’s of­fice has in­tro­duced mea­sures to pre­vent co­ral dam­age in the prov­ince and is plan­ning to in­vite more than 30 marine tourism providers, in­clud­ing re­sort own­ers and travel agen­cies op­er­at­ing in the prov­ince, later this month to join the con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

“We want to re­mind all stake­hold­ers in marine tourism to pre­vent cases sim­i­lar to the Suwar­nad­wipa one from oc­cur­ring. We will warn them that such ac­tiv­i­ties con­sti­tute crimes,” Yos­meri said.

Un­der the plan, tourist ser­vice providers are ex­pected to ed­u­cate their guests to play a part in the con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, in­clud­ing by not step­ping on corals and not bring­ing them home as sou­venirs.

The prov­ince will also re­quire com­pa­nies to set up buoys for tourist boats to make fast, so they wont need to use an­chors.

Mentawai Is­lands Tourism Agency head Desti Semi­nora vowed to sup­port the cam­paign. “We are in dire need of im­me­di­ate ac­tion that should not only fo­cus on ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple, but also on mon­i­tor­ing,” she said, adding that co­ral har­vest­ing for con­struc­tion ma­te­rial still hap­pens in the re­gency, which is fa­mous for its world-class surf­ing spots.

“Ini­tially they were used by the lo­cals to build houses, but now they are used as con­struc­tion ma­te­rial for vil­lage roads and other ad­min­is­tra­tion projects. This must be stopped im­me­di­ately.”

There are about 53,500 hectares of co­ral reefs in West Su­ma­tra, 90 per­cent of which, ac­cord­ing to An­dalas Univer­sity co­ral reef ex­pert In­dra Ju­naidi Zakaria, is es­ti­mated to be in a bad con­di­tion.

The main fac­tors dam­ag­ing co­ral reefs are hu­mans ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing ir­re­spon­si­ble fish­ing prac­tices, and co­ral bleach­ing.

In­done­sia is home to 559 co­ral species in­hab­it­ing about 2.5 mil­lion hectares in the sea. How­ever, the lat­est mon­i­tor­ing by the In­done­sian In­sti­tute of Sciences (LIPI) sug­gested only 6.4 per­cent were still in an ex­cel­lent con­di­tion.

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