Indonesia: Don’t throw plastic into the sea, river basins: -- Minister

Markus Makur The Jakarta Post 7 Jun 16;

Indonesia’s waters will remain heavily polluted unless fishing communities and other land dwellers stop throwing garbage into the sea and river basins, a minister has said.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Indonesians threw 260 million tons of plastic waste into the ocean and river basin areas every year, making it the world’s second-biggest plastic waste polluter of seas and rivers after China. Indonesians must change their attitude and restrain from throwing plastic into bodies of water, she added.

“All waste thrown into river basin areas will empty into the sea so the plastic garbage will pile up at sea. If the plastic waste attaches to coral reefs, fish and shrimp will not lay eggs there,” Susi said during a visit to West Manggarai, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, on Monday. She was speaking in front of hundreds of fishermen at a dialogue held at the Labuan Bajo fish landing facility ( TPI ) in Labuan Bajo subdistrict, Komodo district, West Manggarai.

During her visit, Susi expressed her admiration of Flores Island and West Manggarai, especially their natural beauty, beautiful underwater scenery and the hospitality of their people. Behind the beauty, however, plastic waste problems in West Manggarai and Flores Island have not been handled well, the minister said.

“I saw West Manggarai from the air from the helicopter I traveled on before I landed at Komodo Airport on Sunday. I saw a lot of plastic waste scattered across Labuan Bajo waters. I want West Manggarai to set an example for how to manage waste well,” Susi said.

“The West Manggarai administration must immediately create a local regulation that carries sanctions for people who throw waste in improper places. This regulation must impose a heavy fine for anyone who throws garbage anywhere, such as a Rp 500,000 [US$37.51] fine for littering as stipulated in a waste handling bylaw,” Susi said, referring to Bylaw No. 3/2013, which provides detailed regulations on handling waste in Jakarta.

Susi said fishing communities in West Manggarai should invite West Manggarai Regent Agustinus Dulla to swim in the sea so he could see the seriousness of garbage problems in the regency’s waters.

“Don’t remove waste from Labuan Bajo and coastal areas only because there is a ministerial visit to West Manggarai, and then after the minister returns to Jakarta, the garbage is again not handled well, just like before,” said the minister.

“The waste problems in Komodo National Park must be handled well,” she added. “This national park must be free from plastic garbage as it is a major tourist destination, which thousands of foreign and domestic tourists visit. Many tourists use cruise ships to visit the national park to see komodo dragons, one of the world’s wonders.”

During the dialogue, Dahlan, a West Manggarai fisherman, said there was a growing awareness among local communities about properly handling the plastic waste problem. Fishing communities in the area have begun to stop throwing trash into the sea and rivers. The West Manggarai administration and several NGOs have trained fishing communities on recycling plastic.

“We have been trained by the West Manggarai regency and several NGOs to manage plastic waste. They continue to encourage us to leave behind our habit of throwing garbage anywhere,” said Dahlan. ( ebf )

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