Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Mon, 08/08/2011 8:00 AM
Villagers in Bondalem and Tejakula in Bali’s northern regency of Buleleng have proven that conservation efforts can begin with small community-based groups. They have inspired seven other surrounding villages to join them in establishing the East Buleleng marine conservation zone, a remarkable first step in the national program to establish 20 million hectares of protected area by 2020.
Bondalem village made the breakthrough on Earth Day in 2008 by declaring a marine managed area for coral reefs.
A year later, Tejakula village followed suit by declaring its own area in August 2009. Before conservation efforts began, the area was blighted by widespread destructive fishing practices and coral extraction.
Workshops and assistance by NGOs have raised the villagers’ awareness of the importance of saving their area from further environmental damage.
“After learning about the impacts of global warming and destructive fishing practices on the marine ecosystem, and seeing the results, we realized that we could play a major role in saving our environment and that we should start taking action,” Nyoman Sugiarta, a pecalang (traditional security officer) from Bondalem, said.
“We felt the impact [of destructive fishing and coral mining]. Fishermen report lower catches, so we should do something,” Made Darmika, a fishermen from Tejakula who initiated the conservation
Village leaders welcomed the initiative by appointing the pecalang to manage the marine area. With the approach, they believe that protecting the environment would become a cultural responsibility.
“The key to success is to involve all stakeholders by assuring them that in the end this will benefit them and surrounding villages as well,” Bondalem village chief Gede Ngurah Sadu.
In the program, fishermen are not allowed to catch fish in a core zone.
“The coastal community in Tejakula has shown great commitment and initiative in conserving coral reefs in their area,” Jensi Sartin from Bali-based Reef Check Indonesia Foundation, which has assisted the village since
A community-based program would have more impact and advantage for the community itself, compared to a program initiated by outside parties such as NGOs or the government, he added.
The Tejakula coast is located in northern Bali, a three-hour drive from Denpasar and one hour to the west of Singaraja, the capital of Buleleng.
Coral reefs in this area stretch 25 kilometers and are home to at least 276 species of reef fish.