Indonesia: It’s a race against time to save the country’s lakes

Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra, Indonesia, like Lake Limboto, is in critical condition. Image credit: Ben Pitler/Mongabay

In the 1970s, Lake Limboto in Gorontalo province, Indonesia, was 50km² and eight metres deep – twice the size and three times deeper than what it is today.

And the lake used to be bigger still in the 1930s, spanning 70km² and 30 metres deep.

According to Anton Nui, who has fished at the lake for more than 40 years, he used to be able to catch a full day’s worth of fish close to his home – and quickly too. But now, things have changed drastically. The lake is only 25km² now, and a scant three to four metres deep, with dire consequences.

“Now, a full day does not guarantee even 10 fish,” Anton Kui, head of a small association for local fishermen, Citra Neyalan, said. “Only the lucky ones get more.”

On top of supporting the local fishing community, however, the lake also hosts an estimated 50 species of transcontinental migratory birds that journey every year from Siberia to Australia and back again, and is also at the centre of a growing tourism industry.

But the rampant deforestation taking place in the mountains around the lake is stuffing it millions of sediment annually, elevating the lakebed and raising the risk of flooding in the areas surrounding it.

“Because of the higher sedimentation in the lake, we can’t afford to have it rain anymore,” Dony Lahati, head of the public works department in the district, lamented. “There are floods every rain during the rainy season.”

Moreover, research scientists have forecasted that the lake will cease to exist soon in 2025.

The problems afflicting Lake Limboto, however, are not exclusive to it. Lake Limboto is only one example of the 17 other lakes in the nation which have been categorised as in “critical condition”, pointing to their various environmental issues such as the sedimentation that is behind the shrinking and deforestation and aquatic weeds that are contribute to the draining of the lake’s waters, endangering the wildlife and local economy.

According to Mongabay, government officials and academics from across the country met on the banks of Lake Limboto to try to find a solution to save the critical lakes in Indonesia, declaring to Jakarta that a national body should be established to direct both attention and funds to the lakes in the country – which number more than 800.

Upon the declaration, district chiefs and academics hailing from seven provinces met with the Regional Representatives Council to debate and discuss the details and possibility of establishing a national institution to oversee the problem as well as implement solutions, tentatively named the Archipelago Lakes Regional Forum.

“We aren’t just talking about Lake Limboto – we are talking about all lakes in Indonesia,” Nelson Pomalingo, a professor of agriculture and head of the Gorontalo district, said. “Until now, we were just discussing among the district chiefs, but now we are bringing it to the national level, and the regions are coming together to build from the bottom up.”


Source: Mongabay