Indonesia: Govt continues reforestation program around Lake Toba

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 30 Jul 16;

As part of a forest conservation program, the government on Friday planted thousands of trees of different varieties in the mountainous areas around Lake Toba, which have been severely deforested due to forest fires and illegal logging.

The tree planting, led by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, was centered in Huta Ginjang, Muara district, in the regency of North Tapanuli.

Siti said the planting the trees showed the seriousness of the government in dealing with Lake Toba conservation. She added that the government had allocated three million trees to North Sumatra, most of which are for the reforestation of the areas around Lake Toba.

“We want to replenish areas around Lake Toba to make it look beautiful because the tourist site has become a national destination,” Nurbaya said before starting the planting of some 7,700 trees in Huta Ginjang on Friday.

She called on the Batak people to save the environment around Lake Toba for the future generations. She added that the Batak people harbored philosophies and local wisdom that would enable them to conserve Lake Toba and its surroundings.

North Sumatra Forestry Office head Halen Purba said the planting of the trees would be continued in other areas close to Lake Toba. He said the trees planted around Lake Toba included pine, avocado and candlenut.

“The trees are planted in an area of 15 hectares in North Tapanuli,” Halen told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the annual reforestation program around Lake Toba had been going on since the 1970s. However, reforestation has not been successful due to the rocky terrain in the area.

“We will keep planting trees around Lake Toba even though the location is prone to forest fires,” Halen said, adding that the government had prepared a budget for the reforestation of areas around Lake Toba.

“For this year, the reforestation budget for North Sumatra stands at over Rp 40 billion,” he said. Each regency or municipality will also receive money for the reforestation program.

Marandus Sirait, an environmentalist who received the Kalpataru Award in 2005 from the Toba Samosir regency, said the tree planting activities by the government in the areas around Lake Toba were useless and a waste of state funds because similar such programs had been proven to be unsuccessful.

“Reforestation has been organized many times in areas around Lake Toba. However, most of the programs have failed as the trees are caught in fires before they grow up high,” said Marandus.

Another conservationist, Hasoloan Manik, the recipient of the Kalpataru Award in 2010, sees the tree planting activities simply as a project to disburse the state budget.

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