Plans for a Trump town threat­ens one of Java’s last vir­gin trop­i­cal forests

New Straits Times - - World -


SHROUDED in mist and cloud, the twin vol­ca­noes of the lushly forested Gunung Gede Pangrango Na­tional Park are the brood­ing guardians of na­ture’s last stand on teem­ing Java is­land. In­done­sia’s over­flow­ing, pol­luted cap­i­tal is a cou­ple of hours north, and with Trump-branded prop­er­ties be­ing built next to this pro­tected area, Jakarta may soon feel even closer.

Over the next four years, a sprawl­ing “Trump Community” will be built in this pocket of In­done­sia’s most densely pop­u­lated is­land, with a new road lead­ing to it. It’s part of broader plans, in­clud­ing a mas­sive theme park, that have alarmed con­ser­va­tion­ists who fear devel­op­ment will over­whelm a refuge for some of the ar­chi­pel­ago’s most threat­ened species.

The 3,000ha project is the brain­child of President Don­ald Trump’s Indonesian part­ner, bil­lion­aire and pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Hary Ta­noe.

Gunung Gede Pangrango is one of the last vir­gin trop­i­cal forests in Java, where only two per cent of orig­i­nal for­est re­mains. It nur­tures a daz­zling va­ri­ety of flora and fauna: more than 2,000 species of ferns, mosses and flow­er­ing plants and 250 species of birds. En­dan­gered species in­clude the Ja­van slow loris (the world’s only venomous pri­mate), the Ja­van leaf mon­key, the Ja­van leopard (whose to­tal pop­u­la­tion num­bers less than 250), and the Ja­van hawk-ea­gle and Ja­van sil­very gib­bon.

The park has a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre for sil­very gib­bons that have been res­cued from the il­le­gal wildlife trade. The gib­bons, known for prac­tis­ing life­long monogamy and their dis­tinc­tively small, in­tense faces, num­ber fewer than 4,000 in the wild.

Ta­noe’s MNC Group will build a six-star Trump ho­tel along with a golf course, coun­try club, lux­ury con­do­mini­ums, man­sions and vil­las. To­gether with a theme park, ho­tels, shops, homes and a din­ing and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict that MNC is de­vel­op­ing on its own, this first stage of “Lido City” will oc­cupy be­tween 800ha and 1,000ha.

A vi­su­al­i­sa­tion on the com­pany’s web­site shows a val­ley filled with a man-made lake and a fan­tas­ti­cal theme park. Ta­noe plans to fill out the re­main­ing 2,000ha and wants to ex­pand fur­ther.

MNC is also build­ing a toll road that im­prove ac­cess to nearby cities and Jakarta. The Lido City project does not re­quire an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment, though some parts such as the theme park will, ac­cord­ing to Ta­noe.

Park of­fi­cials worry con­struc­tion will cause wildlife to flee and that the mini-city MNC touts as “ful­fill­ing the dream of the peo­ple of In­done­sia for world-class en­ter­tain­ment” will bring an un­con­trol­lable in­flux of peo­ple and rub­bish. They ques­tion how the devel­op­ment will meet its sub­stan­tial water needs in an area that’s a cru­cial catch­ment for the 30 mil­lion peo­ple of greater Jakarta.

But nor can they af­ford to an­tag­o­nise MNC or the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which will man­age the Trump-branded prop­er­ties. The project is go­ing ahead whether they like it or not and the main ac­cess road to the park, which has a con­trolled 50,000 vis­i­tors a year, cuts through MNC’s land. The park, which is part of the Min­istry of the En­vi­ron­ment and Forestry, has signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with MNC con­cern­ing the devel­op­ment of eco-tourism; nei­ther it nor the com­pany would pro­vide a copy.

“We are still dis­cussing with them about how to avoid a mas­sive ex­o­dus of wildlife while they are work­ing on con­struc­tion,” said the park chief, Adi­son, who goes by one name.

“Be­fore they start con­struc­tion we want them to adapt to how the wildlife ex­ists in this na­tional park. You can open your busi­ness here but you have to re­spect your neigh­bours.”

Adi­son said park of­fi­cials be­lieve com­pany ex­ec­u­tives are be­gin­ning take con­ser­va­tion more se­ri­ously, pos­si­bly be­cause the Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s in­volve­ment has given the project a higher pro­file.

MNC’s cor­po­rate sec­re­tary said its ex­ec­u­tives were too busy to be in­ter­viewed and did not re­spond to emailed ques­tions about how the com­pany planned to mit­i­gate en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. The Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion redi­rected ques­tions to a pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany that did not pro­vide any re­sponse. AP


Chil­dren stand­ing against the back­drop of Gede Pangrango Moun­tains in Bo­gor, West Java.

A girl walk­ing along a vil­lage road (right) and a farmer rid­ing his mo­tor­cy­cle on a dirt road near the moun­tain.

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