Wiratno, the ministry’s director general for natural resources and ecosystems, said on Saturday (Oct 31) the project was a public effort to integrate the various tourist attractions in the region.
He claimed it would not risk the safety of wildlife endemic to the area. “I don’t know how [the project] came to be perceived as Jurassic Park,” Wiratno said during an online discussion held by the ministry on Wednesday.
The media began using the term "Jurassic Park" last year after Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the development of tourism on Rinca Island would be like "dinosaur" tourism.
“The project is run by the government, not the private sector. We want an integrated system that allows [tourists] to view the Komodo dragons in a sophisticated manner.”
He went on to say that the ongoing project in the Loh Buaya resort adhered to conservation regulations and would not jeopardize the safety of the endangered animals.
“The environmental permit issued on Sept 4 has taken into account the impact of the construction on the natural habitat and behavior of the Komodo dragon,” Wiratno said, adding that the new facilities would enable tourists to view the animals from a safe distance.
It was previously reported that the central government is currently building premium facilities on the island, including an elevated deck for Komodo dragon viewing, an information centre and an inn for visitors and island staff. It is also renovating docks along the island’s coastline.
Along with Komodo and Padar, Rinca Island is one of the three major islands that make up the world-renowned Komodo National Park.
Wiratno said the construction covered 500 hectares of Loh Buaya and around 2.5 percent of the 20,000-ha island.
“The development is limited to the land-use area. We’ve always been careful to comply with the park’s spatial planning protocols,” he said.
A photo posted on Instagram account @gregoriusafioma on Saturday capturing a Komodo dragon facing a project truck on Rinca Island recently went viral and raised concerns over the survival of Komodo dragons in the area.
According to the ministry, the park deploys 10 rangers to the construction site every day to ensure that the Komodo dragons are out of harm’s way.
The estimated number of Komodo dragons in Loh Buaya is currently around 66, of which at least 15 are often seen roaming around the tourism project development area in the resort.
The resort area is currently closed to tourists until the end of June next year, when the construction is expected to be completed. “Construction has reached 30 per cent completion,” Wiratno said.
A number of civil society groups, including the West Manggarai Tourism Rescue Society Forum (Formapp Mabar) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), have criticised the development project, raising concerns over possible disruptions to the island’s ecosystem.
Walhi director in NTT Umbu Wulang Tanaamahu Paranggi argued that the development of the Labuan Bajo National Strategic Tourism Area (KSPN), including on Rinca Island, would have a serious impact on the environment and surrounding communities.
Umbu said infrastructure development in the area could disrupt natural biodiversity, bringing changes in landscape and contamination of groundwater. - The Jakarta Post/Asian News Network
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