Indonesia: Lake Toba set to be cleared of fish cages

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 22 Jul 16;

In a bid to improve the appearance of Lake Toba, the North Sumatra administration and seven regencies and municipalities have agreed to rid the site of keramba (floating net cages), used for breeding fish.

The presence of numerous keramba at the popular tourist site is said to degrade the scenery around the lake, while the waste pollutes the waters.

An agreement between the provincial, regency and municipal administrations will be signed in Jakarta on Monday, ahead of its implementation.

North Sumatra administration secretary Hasban Ritonga said his office would report on the action plan to the central government on Saturday before the signing on Monday.

“This is parts of our efforts to support the central government’s program to make Lake Toba a national tourist destination,” Hasban told reporters at his office on Thursday.

Hasban said the move to clear the lake of fish cages was part of efforts to make Lake Toba the Monaco of Asia. The central government aims to remove all keramba within the next two years.

He said the target was realistic, considering the lake was home to numerous fish cages belonging to both individuals and companies.

“We will set up an integrated team comprising the North Sumatra provincial administration, seven regency and city administrations and nine ministries to realize the target,” Hasban said.

Simalungun Regent JR Saragih expressed his support for efforts to free Lake Toba of fish cages, saying his administration would start clearing the lake starting from the Parapat area.

“Parapat and other regions have to be freed of fish cages. We will involve the military and the police in the clearing,” Saragih said.

Rudi Hertanto of PT Aquafarm Nusantara, a Swiss company operating numerous fish cages on Lake Toba, expressed surprise at the government’s plan, saying his side had not been invited by the government to discuss the issue.

“Up to today we have not yet been informed about the plan to get rid of [floating net cages] from Lake Toba waters,” Rudi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He expressed disappointment over the plan, arguing that his company’s presence on the lake was at the invitation of the North Sumatra administration.

“PT Aquafarm operates a fisheries business on Lake Toba at the request of the North Sumatra administration. Ironically it’s also them who will stop us,” Rudi said, adding that his company had been operating in the area since 1998.

He said he had no idea about what would happen to his 1,500 employees if fish cages on Lake Toba were forced to stop operations.

He also said his company supported the government’s policy to make Lake Toba the Monaco of Asia. However, he expressed hopes that the policy would not put an end to the fisheries industry, which employs thousands of workers.

Tens of thousands of floating fish nets have been used on Lake Toba for years. They are operated both by locals and companies such as Aquafarm and Japfa.

Recently, millions of goldfish and parrot fish being bred in keramba operated by locals died en masse, causing billions of rupiah in losses.

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