Pulau Banyak is a truly unique archipelago, so rich in wildlife and
beauty. However, there are many threats in the future and a lot of
damages have already been done over the years. The reefs, the wild
life, and the forests are sensitive. The pressure from illegal
activities of greedy businesspeople on the mainland is strong.
Poverty and ignorance amongst the locals doesn’t make it better.
The forests are still standing in Pulau Banyak. Pulau Tuangku and
Pulau Bangkaru have probably two of the best preserved forests in
Sumatra. The main reason is the status as Taman Wisata Alam (kind of
Nature Park) since 1996 combined with an active local NGO (Yayasan
Pulau Banyak) and a good local forestry policeman.
The turtles has decreased in numbers due to two reasons. The
locals have collected all the eggs for many years. Worse is however
that turtles have been caught by nets, both by accident and purpose.
Muslims don’t eat turtle meat, but poachers from Sibolga hunt for
turtles for the non-Muslim markets. The turtle beach on Bangkaru has
been protected on and off since 1995.
The Dugong has not been hunted in Pulau Banyak for the last 20
years. However, sometimes Dugongs are caught in nets and sold.
Certain species have been overfished and have almost disappeared,
for example the giant clam.
The major concern is definitely the coral reefs. Fifteen years
ago the snorkeling next to the main village was very good. Pulau
Banyak had vast areas of reefs. Today most of the coral reefs are
damaged. There are three reasons for this:
- Coral excavation
The destruction can be blamed on the following:
- Businessmen on the mainland and abroad
- Ignorant consumers in other countries
- Government officials
- International organizations and NGO's.
Poison fishing was introduced in the late 80ies by a fishing
company from the mainland. In the mid 90ies the use of poison
increased sharply when a Hong Kong connected company started to buy
up live fish in Pulau Banyak. The fishermen were taught to use
potassium cyanide to catch reef fishes such as Grouper and Lobsters.
The fish were exported live to Hong Kong in tank boats. Never eat
fish in a restaurant selling live fish. It can contain traces
cyanide and drugs used to keep the fish alive. Many areas in
Indonesia have been destroyed by these kind of methods. The poison
fishing is now not as common as it once was and it is not done
openly any longer, since the authorities finally is trying to stop
the bad practices.
Bomb fishing increased sharply in the end of the 90ies. It has
now stopped totally in Pulau Banyak.
Coral excavation is a huge problem in Pulau Banyak.. The islands
have no stone and sand suitable as building material. Originally
buildings in Pulau Banyak were built by wood and houses stood on
stilts, but now houses are built with stone and cement. Even though
coral excavation is strictly forbidden, corals and beach sand has
always been used, even in government projects. No one could afford
to import stones and sand from the mainland. The corals are sold for
Rp. 60.000 per cubic meter, whilst the stones from the mainland cost
between Rp. 300.000 and Rp. 400.000 per cubic meter.
The problem with coral excavation increased drastically after the
earthquakes and tsunami. The eastern islands of Pulau Banyak sank up
to one meter, which left many houses standing in water and submerged
most of the roads on Pulau Balai. Several International help
organizations came after tsunami and built new houses for homeless
locals. The problem was that their contractors used corals instead
of stone and sand imported from the mainland. Yayasan Tanggul
Bencana from Jakarta fired their staff after finding out and changed
their way of building and managed to avoid using corals. Swiss
Solidarity from Switzerland, working through Hoffnungsnetz, also
used corals, but has refused to admit any wrongdoing and claim that
they just follow local traditions. In addition to destroying the
basis for the fishermen's livelihood by excavation the coral reefs,
they also use the cheapest wood available. This wood, locally called
Basung, will rot away within a year.
The worst case of them all was a project to raise the level of
the ring road around Pulau Balai. According to a qualified guess,
20.000 cubic meters of corals were used, all financed by The World
Bank. The culprits were the contractors appointed, but the lack of
control by The World Bank has caused irreparable damages.
Unfortunately the road was almost completed when they were informed.
The World Bank has shown no regrets and done nothing to lessen the
damages in Pulau Banyak.
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