When we talk about tackling the environmental issues in Papua and West Papua, water is part of the main discussion. It is not just about water and sanitation for the local residents, including the indigenous Papuans living in rural areas. It is also about the freshwater in the rivers, lakes, and ocean that surrounds the island.
That is why the idea of having a water conservation area in these provinces has come up. Still, how does the water conservation area helps in tackling the environmental issues in Papua and also West Papua?
Raja Ampat Islands As The Model For A Water Conservation Area
For starters, this area has been famous among water sports fans. Anyone willing to go snorkeling and diving usually prefers Raja Ampat. They can even spend a few nights here if they wish to do more exploration on the whole area, both on the islands and underwater.
The official name of this area is called Raja Ampat Islands Regency Water Conservation Area. In other words, this area is designated as a regional water conservation area. The legal basis of the name is from:
- The Decree of The Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Number 26/2014 (Keputusan Menteri Kelautan dan Perikanan No.36/2014)
- Raja Ampat Regent Regulation Number 66/2007 (dated June 14, 2007) / Peraturan Raja Ampat No.66/2014
- Raja Ampat Regent Regulation Number 5/2009 (dated April 16, 2009) / Peraturan Raja Ampat No.5/2009
The hydro-oceanographic conditions of the Raja Ampat Regency are influenced by the dynamics of the waters of the Seram Sea, Halmahera Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. This region has got mixed tides. The surface currents are relatively strong, especially in the gap or strait between the two islands.
In general, the pattern of the current movement in the waters of Raja Ampat in August leads from the east along the northern part of the island of Papua to the Banda Sea in the southwest. Meanwhile, in October, the currents come from the southwest along the Maluku Islands towards the Pacific Ocean in the northeast.
The Trouble with The Ecosystem
Since the 1990s, the coral reef ecosystem in Raja Ampat Regency has faced the threat of consistent damage due to non-environmentally friendly fishing activities. Many fishers, locals and outsiders alike, have used bombs and cyanide poisoning. Their idea was to catch as many fish as possible in such a short time.
Unfortunately, many of them were unaware—or chose not to care—that the fishing methods they chose ended up destroying the coral reefs in their fishing spot. Since the coral reefs in Raja Ampat have been considered the best in Indonesia, these issues have sparked global attention. Their biodiversity is even higher than the same thing in Palau.
Therefore, the conservation approach in establishing the Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area uses the approach of participation, support, and provision of facilities for social infrastructure development. Other types of approach here also include technical guidance, socialization, samples, and pilot projects to develop marine tourism and sustainable fisheries.
How Helpful Is This Approach When It Comes To Tackling Environmental Issues In Papua and West Papua?
For starters, when you recognize an area as a tourism potential, two main concerns may arise. First, tourists who pay a visit will end up littering and damaging the area. Second, keeping it hidden while not looking after it on a regular basis may result in the same environmental problems.
To tackle environmental issues in Papua and West Papua, we can use Raja Ampat as the model for a water conservation area. Yes, tourists are allowed to visit, but there are strict regulations that they must follow. Other ways may include finding and focusing on treating other tourism potentials in these provinces, so they will be as inviting but still as safe as Raja Ampat.