Indonesia says 'Jurassic Park' project on track despite UNESCO warnings

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's Komodo National Park is seen in this April 6, 2018 photo. Construction in the park on a tourism project dubbed "Jurassic Park" will continue, the Southeast Asian country's environment ministry said, despite UNESCO warnings the plans could have a negative environmental impact. REUTERS/Henning Gloystein

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Construction on an Indonesian tourism project dubbed "Jurassic Park" on social media will continue, the Southeast Asian country's environment ministry said on Thursday, despite UNESCO warnings the plans could have a negative environmental impact.

Work on a series of tourism projects in Indonesia's Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, began last year, sparking concerns about threats to the local economy and the fragile habitat of the park's namesake, the Komodo dragon.

Last month, officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told a World Heritage Committee conference that the project required a new environmental impact assessment over illegal fishing concerns and the potential risk to the Komodo dragon's natural habitat.

"This project will proceed... it's been proven to have no impact," Wiratno, a senior official at Indonesia's environment ministry, told Reuters.

UNESCO officials told last month's meeting that they had requested an updated assessment from the Indonesian government but received no response. Wiratno said a new assessment was being drafted and could be sent in September.

It was not clear exactly what the project, centred on the island of Rinca, entails. Last year, the government said it was building a "premium tourism spot" on the island.

In a separate statement, Wiratno said the project mainly included renovation work on existing structures and did not pose any danger to the rare Komodo dragons.

Rima Melani Bilaut of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), an environmental group, said the project could impact the local community, as well as disturb the dragons.

"We urge the government to develop tourism that's based on the people. There are people living there," she said.

Last year, social media users likened the project to one on a dinosaur island featured in the "Jurassic Park" films after photos of a dragon standing in front of a big vehicle were widely shared online.

Indonesia is home to around 3,100 Komodo dragons, according to government data. The unique lizards grow up to 3 metres (10 feet) long and have a yellow forked tongue.

(Writing by Stanley Widianto; Editing by James Pearson)

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