Earth Advocates -

What is Eco tourism ?

We believe this is one the most misused terms to describe a businesses position toward environmental awareness and protection . A loosely used term to make people feel like they are investing in a well operated environmentally friendly business. Beware! We have found that in over 80% of the cases, tourist businesses using this term to attract customers did not provided any evidence of 'environmental friendly' operational methods any more than the average business. Often the basis of using the term Eco tourism by many hotels was due to the natural location alone or "the view", not any special methods or preparations made toward protecting or sustaining the ecosystem. Today the problem is that so many of these businesses are located in pristine natural areas and are often the major polluters. We found this to be the case more often than not.

We strongly believe to acquire the right to use the label Eco tourism as a description, a set of well designed internationally agreed upon criteria must be implemented and practiced. Further, to use this title Eco tourism one must legally register the Business as such, and is obligated to following the set of rules and guidelines laid forth describing the implementation of the principles in practice to the Business. If these rules are not respected then the business should face fines and possibly forced closure, thus loosing the license and the right to use the label of Eco tourism This dilemma is now being attended to by many lawmakers and scholars alike to find a solution to what has become a problem. A problem because in some countries companies use the Eco tourism label to get licenses and gain access to erecting businesses in environmentally sensitive areas without any idea or intention to take care of the environment. We believe this situation must be changed to where only those who can prove they are worthy to be classified as such, can officially be certified to use the label, others should not legally be able to use this term to advertise their businesses. The following story illustrates how the term can be grossly misused.

An aerial Photo of the Gili Islands May, 2006, North West Lombok, a Marine Protected area. After years of Marine Pillage, dynamite fishing and such, due to police patrols and increased water sports tourism, the coral reefs and fish stocks seem to be improving, though not near what it was before the tourist development stage after 1993.

The Tragedy of Gili Travangan, Lombok Marine Reserve.

The largest of a group of three Coral Reef Islands first settled by Fisherman and Coconut Farmers during the 1970's. During the mid 1980's the first foreign travelers, Backpackers arrived to what was described as a spectacular Coral Garden Island. Until 1988/89 there existed no electricity, accommodation in small stilted natural material huts including three meals a day cost approximately US $ 2. Then came the first Restaurant and Dive school with generated electricity. During May 1991 a Group of Ministers led by the Minister of Tourism, plus Javanese businessmen arrived on a Hydrofoil and proceeded to mark off and to carve up the Island to their liking as a Massive Hotel venture was being planned. A big hotel with swimming pools and a Golf course were included.

Soon there after government notices were distributed to the few Island inhabitants about the plans to relocate them to the other side of the Island because the land rights where they lived were sold. Many inhabitants protested this arguing they lived there so many years and never were allowed the option to buy the land themselves. Eventually after pleading their cases unsuccessfully, the military arrived and without exception destroyed the Homes and Huts on lands claimed by the Ministers and entourage of businessmen. In return for moving the officials promised to increase their standard of living by promoting rich tourism, in the name of Eco tourism This did not convince all the residents, but did ignite a migration of residence from mainland Lombok. The military returned three times from August 1992 to May 1993, destroying all houses in the forbidden area, forcibly relocating those residents to the south west portion of the Island where 80 % of the Coral Reef had already been damaged from dynamite fishing. Some residents were still defiant until the end as 'Good Heart' owners, the first settlers to provide shelter and food for foreign traveler. Actually the perfect model Eco tourism before the intimidation.

Currently the Islands Infrastructure is overpopulated, polluted, the Coral Gardens are 90% destroyed, and the hotel project has become the Expensive Bungalow Resort (currently without a golf course!).

The paradox of this story, as in many similar stories, is had there been environmental protection laws in place, environmental impact studies done, and recommendations against developing this Island, still, with money, power, and the under the banner of Eco tourism, it may have happened anyway! Our model of Eco tourism is what existed before the arrival of the Minister and his friends. Examples of the Hypocrisy can be clearly demonstrated around North Sulawesi's Marine Reserve, where Eco tourism is a popular term as mentioned in the Section 'Coral Reefs - Protected or Pillaged?'.

Rising Ecological Awareness in Government and Private Institutions

During 1999 we devoted much time and effort promoting ecological awareness at all levels. What follows is an Abbreviated agenda of our efforts in this area.

EARTH ADVOCATES 1999 SE ASIA Agenda - Focus Areas - Indonesian Elections, Promote Pro Environment Reform, Promote Previous Actions - The Agenda from March 14 to July 2, included spontaneous targeted meetings and interviews, Open door conferences and workshops, invitation only Conferences and Exhibitions. Events listed in Chronological Order.

Singapore Meetings March 14-22

1. Singapore Conservation Society, numerous meetings

2. Meeting with founding member of project 'Wallesa', Marine Conservation project in recent Reserve in SE Sulawesi, March 16

3. ADEX Exhibition Organizing committee for Conservation, March 17

4. CNBC International Television Network, March 18/19

5. Associated Press Singapore, March 18

6. International Herald Tribune, March 19

7. 'Haze Busters' organizer and film production director, March 20/21

Indonesia, Java, March 23 to April 12

1. Indonesian Navy Operatives, Fishing Dept., various meetings

2. International and National Press Agencies, attended and organized meetings regularly

3. 'Ekolabel' Indonesia workshop, sponsored by 'LEI' a NGO, to increase and better trade practices, March 30-31

4. Performed a survey around SE Java, Nature Reserve and Landscape, 2-7 April

5. Meeting with PT. ASI Pudjiastuti, 3rd largest Lobster/Shrimp exporter to Japan, Pangandaran, survey and interview w/ Dir. Owner, 4-5 April

6. 'Nature Conservancy' Environmental group, meeting on current projects 8 April

7. ICEL, Indonesian Center for Environmental Law- NGO, meeting 8 April

8. KEHATI, The Indonesian Bio-diversity Foundation, Environmental NGO, Emil Salim, attended various individual and group meetings

9. PHPA Indonesian Environmental Protection Agency, meeting with agency Director, 9 April

10. Environmental Photography and Indigenous cultural meeting in Bogor, 10 April

11. PDI Perjuangan Rally, the best known Reform Party (eventually won the populous vote, leader elected Vice President) 11 April

Singapore April 13-20

ADEX Singapore Asia Dive and Boat Expo in World Trade Center, an Exhibitor and Speaker , 14-18 April

Associated Press Interview, 19 April

CNBC Television Interview, 20 April

Indonesia, Java, April 21 June 7

1. WWF meetings and Conference on Environmental Conservation Party Platforms, 23 & 27 April

2. WALHI Environmental Conservation Group, an NGO, various meetings, from ,26 April

3. Environmental Governance Conference & Press Conference, Agenda Reform sponsored by BAPPENAS-UNDP 28 April

4. CIDES Center For Information and Development Studies, Open discussion theme Transition into Democracy, 29 April

5. KEHATI meeting recommendations for Earthy projects, 29 April

6. ASEAN, Attended Ceremony To Welcome CAMBODIA as new Member, 30 April

7. IESeR Institute for Education and Social Economic Research, Forum on education reform, 1 May

8. Ministry of Environment Indonesia, meeting 3 May

9. BPPT, Indonesia Environmental Data Base, 4 May

10. CIDES Conference on Political Reform, 4 May

11. ASEAN DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION FORUM, many individual meetings, 6-7 May, Ginandjar Kartasasmita

12. CIDES & BPPT, meetings on development Ministry of Oceans & Waterways, 12 May

13. BAPPENAS-UNDP Stake holders Meeting Environmental Governance, 14 May

14. OPEN HOUSE of Center for Environmental Impact Control, Ministry For The Environment-BAPEDAL, Panangian Siregar, 18 MAY

15. CINAPS, PDI Perjuangan Environmental Platform private discussion , 20 May

16. Open House on Revolutionary Change in Indonesia, Setiawan Djody, 20 May

17. "One Year After Fall of Soeharto", sponsor The New Indonesian Society, an outspoken democratic NGO, 21 May

18. PDI Perjuangan Rallies, attended, interviewed, filmed 23, 28 May, 3 June

19. Indonesian Navy Officials, private information gathering meetings 24 May

20. Attended PKB Rallies 26 May & 1 June, the largest Moderate Moslem Party , 3rd place in General elections led by the current President elect.

21. Attended PAN Rallies 27 May & 2 June, the most outspoken Universal Reform Party, 5th place in General elections led by current Speaker elect.

22. Department of Energy Seminar and meeting, 1 June, chaired by Loekman Soetrino

23. Indonesian Elections, June, 7. Earth Advocates participated as an Independent observer throughout the campaign in central Jakarta.

Bali, June 8- July 2

24. WWF Bali & Walhi numerous meetings, simultaneously on 14, 18 June

25. Meetings with Ida Pedanda Nyurah Kaleran, Highest Religious figure denouncing Turtle Consumption and Trade 18/26 June,

26. TV Republic Indonesia meetings, paid by Earth Advocates to attend and film Protest Action, shown on National Television 20 & 24 Jun

27. Meetings with various Indonesian Reporters and with members of Gandi Ashram Religious Order June 24 in preparation for planned Turtle Action.

27. Turtle Action 26 June, portions filmed by TVRI and Earth Advocates, the first filming of this controversial subject matter by Indonesian National TV. A follow-up studio interview with the Padanda was granted and aired 30 June.

Our "To-Do-List" in the area of Environmental Legislation and Policy Reform

A Healthy Environment leads to a healthy Economy, thus a healthy Future !

Promote Powerful Pro Environmental Legislation
supported by specialized enforcement and awareness programs. Ecologically sound legislation and guidelines to be reflected to all businesses and business practices, promoted to the general public.

The National and Local governments must use this pro environmental criteria in submitting 'Licenses', and further use checks and balances to ensure the regulations are enforced without exception. If the criteria is not met then the project can not be allowed to proceed. Special Environmental Impact Studies with guidelines and testing should be mandatory for all licensing authorities and field workers. It is important that the criteria is met first before licenses are given to avoid a total fiasco. This was the case of Gili Travangan, and so many more unchecked projects, a classic Indonesian story of how lusty government officials and business partners claim island land to build a massive hotel Project to later realize there exists virtually no fresh water reserves to build and run the project. No water for guests, swimming pool, and even a planned golf course. Nor any acceptable place to rid wastes other than on the sensitive coral Island, thus destroying the corals, the very reason tourists would come to Gili Travangan. This case was first reported to Green Peace during 1992 by the Founder of Earth Advocates. (See Section Eco-tourism vs Eco-exploitation, The Tragedy of Gili Travangan, Lombok Marine Reserve)

Promote the restructuring of the Environmental Conservation Department within the Ministry of Environment, as well as increasing the power of the Ministry of Environment.

Currently in Indonesia the Conservation Department falls under the control of the Ministry of Forestry, which often appears to be more powerful than the Ministry of Environment. Similarly, the Ministries of Mining, Agriculture, and such, have had more power and say then that of the Ministry of Environment despite the fact these other Ministries only represent one sector of the Environment and should fall under it. If it were ranked much higher in the decision making power base it could veto and prevent the passage of many of the reckless projects initiated by other ministries as mining and agriculture proposals which could pose serious environmental problems for the future for Indonesia if passed. In many cases, the checks and balances do not add up and continue to imbalance the ecosystems. In far more cases than less the Environmental lobby ends up the loser as do those who inevitably have to face the effects and consequences of poor decision making, namely the society and the targeted environment itself.

There exists an endless amount of such cases, as currently the disputed Mining concession granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to the Australian mining company Aurora. The targeted mining location at the upper corner of North Sulawesi overlooking the already pillaged world renown Marine Reserve and bordering the small fragile Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Such a proposed undertaking should not have ever been considered nor reviewed, much less allowed to proceed sample drilling around that sensitive area. Now that protests have been launched by many other agencies as local and international NGO's and tourism agencies, plus coastal resource specialists, and others, the proposed mining project has been put on hold according to recent reports. (See the related Report, 'Protected or Pillaged'). Unfortunately, as in many such cases, corruption, manipulation, ignorance, and short term gains seem to be the major determining factors have allowed such situation to go so far.

Security and Policing Rights. We propose that the Ministry of Environment be expanded to include the Conservation Department which in turn should be heavily funded and manned with policing and security rights of land based Nature Parks and Reserves. The Conservation Department should have weighted powers within the ministry itself, granting it stronger voting rights and influence in the National Government decision making process and policy making. This Ministry leadership must be manned by 'Environmental Conservation' specialists to allow for true representation of the voiceless and sometimes defenseless species existing within the natural environment. This is essential in any society in which at least 50% of its population depend on its immediate environment to survive and when the natural ecosystems are so important to sustain for a fruitful future survival. Earth Advocates generally believe that regardless of the existing situation anywhere, Environmental Conservation must play a highly influential role within any government to insure for a prosperous future for all living beings. Earth Advocates has been lobbying for this philosophical approach from the start! With the current situation as out of control as it is, a heavy policing and security presents is necessary to regain control.

Separate Specialized Marine Conservation Department for Protection of Marine Parks and Marine Resources is needed.
We propose a similar situation should exist for marine based protection between the Marine Conservation Department and the newly formed Ministry of Maritime Exploration. However in this situation, the Marine Conservation Department must work independently yet together with the Navy to allow for cooperation and checks and balances, thus to better protect National Marine Parks and Marine Resources.

Positive Incentives for ecologically supportive business operations. Businesses which actively promote and involve themselves in preserving and rebuilding the natural resources base, should be rewarded through tax breaks, and, or subsidies only when they've proved their work is valuable to the cause. Grants and so forth should be allotted for programs that are actively hiring, employing, training and promoting local communities in pro environmental activities, as planting and reforesting. In the case of foreign donors, funds must be allotted directly to the projects where the work is actively being done, not through government agencies, or other middlemen agencies (including the many obsolete and mismanaged NGO's), or such bureaucracies who often manage to lose and misplace the donations meant for specific environmental projects.

During the 1999 election campaign , the Forestry Department and BAPPEDAL (The National Environmental Development and Planning Agency of Indonesia) managed to misappropriate and spend up to US $600 million of unused reforestation funds on so called 'Safety Net Projects'. This at the time when 'Fires were raging out of control' in Sumatra and Borneo again ! It was estimated by a local NGO that the money would have been enough to employ at least 4 million people as laborers for up to one year, plus pay the cost for basic tools in reforesting plants in some burnt out areas to avoid erosion. This replanting needed to be done immediately after the fires were out to avoid further erosion and restart the Ecosystem. So much for the April, 1999 UNDP-BAPPEDAL sponsored Good Environmental Governance Conference, a conference meant to promote good governance sponsored by the exact agency which misappropriated and lost the funds for reforestation at about the same time the conference took place!! The larger portion of the money was International Donor money given to Indonesia to fix up the forests and prevent forest disasters, not to sit in state accounts to then be misappropriated and stolen at the expense of caring donors, the Environment, and the Indonesian public. This is not acceptable by any standard and therefore we disagree in donating money to Government or Non Government Organizations without a truly responsible action plan in place and working!

Meanwhile, existing 'Pro Ecological' family industries are not recognized and rewarded for their work. An example is in South East Bali, where the Sea Cabbage Harvesters make so little money that they can hardly feed themselves not to mention their wife's and children, who must also work. They spend a good part of the day in the water farming a very healthy and nutritious food which they must sun dry first before earning less than ONE Dollar A Kilo sold to a middleman who makes much more money then they. These hard working uneducated people live in small Bamboo huts beside the shoreline where they work all day. On an average good day one might earn $2. They get no government help nor subsidies, and they do not steal from others! During 1997, these poor harvesters were instructed they had to move on, to wherever, because the land had been claimed by ex-President Soeharto's son to build a hotel. They had nowhere to go for this was the place they lived and the only profession they know, and lucky for them the collapse of Soeharto regime was what saved them and the small industry. These types of Industries need to be promoted, developed, and sustained so the Industry does not totally disappear, as nearly happened here. Earth Advocates will attempt to help develop and support such industries directly when the resources are available to us. We will also engage with officials and local NGO's to help develop these industries, and specifically this Balinese community mentioned.

Stiff Penalties, to include heavy fines, revoking of licenses, to expulsion for Foreign Law Breakers is needed to send a clear message to the national and international business community that Indonesia seriously cares about it's country, people and natural resources. The accountability of businesses for their environmental impact would encourage better business practices, and attract companies which will act responsibly toward Indonesia and specifically its the environmental laws. Exactly such companies are needed to rebuild a country coming out of an economic and environmental crisis! The consequences of effective enforcement will allow for the committed and better prepared businesses to receive licenses, meanwhile denying or revoking licenses to eliminate non compliant businesses. For Environmental Lawbreakers the penalties and fines should complement the total impact of the damage inflicted to the immediate population and environment . This could include future revenue lost due to the damage, and the cost of repairing the environment damage. These laws would allow Indonesia to successfully recover funds needed to rebuild the country, especially from people like ex-president Soeharto, Bob Hasan, and the rest of his crony friends and his family who pillaged Indonesia's Natural Resources many years. Immediate reinvestment of fines to repair the environmentally damaged area would be necessary to reacquiring a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

In a Herald Tribune, January 25, 2000, editorial, it was estimated that more than 5 million hectares of forest destruction was due to fires lit by large plantation companies to clear land. An estimated "7 Billion dollars of Revenue" was immediately lost, not to mention the bio diverse ecosystem within. Despite all this damage done, not one of these companies guilty of lighting fires was made to pay even a small fine. We believe the guilty firms must be aggressively prosecuted to pay up the total damage they've done or forfeit their right to continue their businesses. Such should be the consequences! The governments must take the steps needed to discourage and correct mistakes for those who don't know or care !?!?

These reckless and lawless companies and their leaders will not change their bad habits unless the government changes theirs, and this is a responsibility the government has toward its people, country, and the environment.

Hiring, Specializing and Upgrading Environmental Patrol and Law Enforcement Authority.
In Indonesia there is a lack of committed, quality, and well equipped Rangers to deal with the environmental problems of the day. Intense training programs from professionally trained foreign Rangers is needed. A much larger and better paid force is currently needed to get the current situation somewhat under control.

Protection of the existing National Parks and Nature Reserves is needed.
All existing National Parks and Nature Reserves are unprotected and being irresponsibly pillaged every day. Investment into small planes, speedboats, forest fighting equipment, basic survival equipment and policing equipment is needed. Indonesia and its international partners have to make some major investments to stop the invasion into the last existing Natural Reserves. The most recent major studies agree that at the current rate of destruction of the Jungles and Coral Reefs, they will all be irreversibly damaged within 10 years, the majority within 5 years!

A Cuscus being sold for $2 on the streets of Manado North Sulawesi.

Jungles like Tangkoko in North Sulawesi are so small already and are getting smaller and more accessible to humans daily. Since the building of a unpaved road through areas of the Jungle during 1996, erosion has set in, to make things worse. Now hunters and human scavengers can easily access the Jungle and cut trees and steal its only indigenous creatures. As small as Tangkoko Nature Reserve is, it is home of indigenous creatures found no where else in the world as the Black Macaque and the Cuscus, among others. Other species have already disappeared.

When all the Trees are downed, their roots decayed under the ground, turned to dust by pound, no more nutrients to be found, nor any beautiful creatures around . Then the eco imbalance is bound, Erosion like a cancer, making the land unsound, unproductive, spreading, the consequences felt by those who are now the only ones around. So a Jungle gone, an Ecosystem destroyed, unproductive and gone, maybe forever! by Robin Marinos

Environmental Education Reform needed

Downed Trees in Leuser Nature Reserve

The need of 'Environmental Studies' at all grade levels is a must in a country that is so dependent on its natural resources for basic survival. All children should be taught to deal with the environment they will be confronted with in the future. For the Higher Grades, Specialized subjects and study programs related to the Environmental issues of the day in preparation for higher education. Specialized studies relative to the future must be taught! Prepare the youth to effectively take care of their own country in preserving and protecting its unique wealth of nature.

Creation of new Nature Reserves
The unique and sensitive environments within Indonesia lye host to so many indigenous life forms which should be protected. Many of these plants and creature have not been discovered and exist in areas not yet protected. As long as man kind have not discovered the value or importance of these plants and such, they should not allow them to disappear forever.

Since 1997, Earth Advocates has been promoting the expansion of the North Sulawesi Marine Reserve to extend to the mouth of the Lembay Straits by the port of Bitung in the Maluku Sea, to include the Banka Island Group. ( See report 'Coral Reefs - Protected or Pillaged? ' )