BATAK LADY with HER Disaster FISHERY BUSINESS in LAKE TOBA
LOOK AT THIS POOR BATAK LADY……
DYING INFECTED FIN FISH CONTIMINATED LAKE TOBA WATER WITH ALL SICKNESS VIRUS INCLUDING WITH ALL THE RUBBISH FROM THE PALLET FEED.SWISS COMPANY NEVER HAVE ANY PROBLEM WITH THIS DESEASE BECAUSE THEY HAVE PROTECTION AND ANTI INFECTIOUS MEDICATION./VITAMIN.etc
Experience and Lessons Learned Brief for
Lake Toba is Indonesia’s largest lake, located in the province of North Sumatra, 176 km to the
west of the provincial capital, Medan. Lake Toba can be reached by car from Medan within
three hours. By plane, Medan is only 40 minutes away from Singapore and two hours from
Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.
As the largest volcano-tectonic lake in the world, the lake is 87 km long from northwest to
southeast and a width of 27 km. Located 904 meters above sea level and the maximum depth
of 505 meters, the lake is one of the country’s important tourist destinations. The natural
beauty of Lake Toba has been internationally recognized. The lake’s blue waters, gracious
residents and fascinating Batak culture draw tourists from all over the globe to the remote
destination of Lake Toba
In the middle of the lake, laid the wedge-shaped island called Samosir, thought to have been
created by subsequent upheavals from the older lake bottom between 0.6 to 0.1 million years
ago. This spectacular island is one and half times larger than the entire Republic of Singapore.
Traveling from the lake’s shore to the island of Samosir is a great adventure for visitors.
The Lake Toba catchment area covers 3,658 sq km, of which the lake surface accounts for
1,103 sq km. The remainder of the catchment area can be classified as 43% hilly and 30%
mountainous, with peaks over 2,000 m above sea level. Biophysically, the cool and refreshing
environment, clean air, fertile soil of the region made it an ideal place for human settlement.
No wonder that centuries ago the ancestors of the Batak ethnic chose it as their permanent site
for settlement. It was here that their descendant developed into the five ethnic Batak groups,
namely the Angkola-Mandailing, Karo, Pakpak-Dairi, Simalungun and Toba. Samosir Island
and the Toba lakeside is the site of the original Batak culture, containing invaluable historical
objects and artifacts, art and culture. In fact, Batak culture is still alive and present here,
preserved in its original form.
The unique geographical position also contained a range of economically significant sources
of livelihood for the population, mainly derived from the abundant fresh water resources and
the dense tropical rain forests. Today, the concentration of the human settlements scattered all
over the Lake Toba watershed are about 366, in the form of small villages to medium towns.
Figure 1 shows the watershed and administrative boundaries of Lake Toba.
Annette Souder, The new faces of development assistance, US Council of State Government News, June/July 1999,
2 Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDALDA) of North Sumatra Province, General Guidance for the
Control and Management of Lake Toba Region
Figure 1: The watershed and administrative boundaries of Lake Toba
Lake Toba is located at the center of a topographic culmination some 300 km long, as
presented by the contour lines between 100–1,000 m in the topographic map of North
Sumatra. This topographic culmination is called the Batak Tumor that runs parallel to Sumatra
Island and Lake Toba is located at its very center. This 300 km long Batak Tumor is dissected
a little west of its center by the 1,625 long Sumatra Fault that stretch from the Sunda Strait to
Banda Aceh. The origin of Lake Toba was first explained as a volcano-tectonic depression
(Bemmelen 1949) and later explained as the result of a series of caldera formations combined
with faulting (Nishimura, 1984 and Hehanussa, 2000). The lake water body is 1,103 km
area, Samosir islands in the lake has a land area of 647 km
and a smaller Pardapur island is 7
. The lake length is 87 km, its circumference measures 294 km.
The lake basin area is surrounded by precipitous cliffs with elevations ranging between 400 to
1200 m above the lake water. The latitude and longitude of the lake water area range between
030′; S 3005′ and E 99020′; S 20
40′. The surface water temperature range between 24.0 to
One single large river, the Asahan River, drain the lake water to the Strait of Malaka in the
east. The lake water is located at about 904 meters above sea level. The depth measured by
cable method by Stehn in 1939 reported a maximum depth of 529 meters, while recent
measurements with acoustic echo sounder method recorded a maximum water depth of 505
meter (Hehanussa and Takara 2003). This 24 meters discrepancy in water depth could be due
to measurement method. The 1939 measurement was done by cable method. The
measurement in 2003 by echo sounding is considered more accurate. During this last (2003)
measurement it was observed that many parts of the lake bottom shows a broad and flat
bottom, relative deeper in the north while shallower in the south. The annual lake water level
fluctuation is 1.5 meter although a lake level drop of 2.5 m due to extensive hydropower
production was reported in the late 1980’s. The discharge from Lake Toba through the
Asahan River was measured up to 102 m
Evaporation is a critical factor in water balance calculations of a lake; they were measured in
three stations, Palipi, Gurgur Balige, and Pulau Tao (Anonym, 1990). Measurements in Pulau
Tao show average evaporation that varies between 3.5-5.5 mm/day. Evaporation
measurements in Haranggaol were lower because of the wind velocity, temperature and
humidity are different then pulau Tao.
2.1 Biophysical features
Biophysical features of the lake and its drainage basin is scarce and restricted to several field
measurement in the past. They include:
Emerged macrophytes: Nelumbo nucifera, Nymphaea sp.
Floating macrophytes: Eichhornia crassipes, Lemna minor, Azolla pinnata,
Submerged macrophytes: Patamogeton malaianus, P.polygonifolius, Myriophyllum
spicatum, Ceratophyllum demersum, Hydrilla verticillata, Chara sp.
Phytoplankton: Amphora, Cocconema, Asterionella, Synedra, Gomphonema,
Orthosira, Navicula, Mastogloia, Pleurosigma, Nitzschia, Genicularia, Botryococcus,
Synechococcus, Anabaena, Oscillaoria
Zooplankton: Cyclops, Cladocera
Benthos: Macrobrachium sintangensis, Brotia costula, Thiara scabra,
Melanoidestuberculata, Melanoides granifera, Anentome helena, Lymnaea
brevispira, L.rubiginoca, Physastra sumatrana, Corbicula tobae
Fish: Tilapia mossambica, Aplocheilus pachax, Lebistes recticulatus, Osphronemus
goramy, Trichogaster trichopterus, Channa striata, C.gachua, Clarius batrachus,
C.nieuhoffi, C.sp., Nemachilus fasciatus, Cyprinus carpio, Puntius javanicus,
P.binotatus, Osteochilus nasselti, Lissochilus sp., Labeobarbus sora, Rasbora sp.
Table 1: Submerged macrophytes [g (wet.wt.)/m
Lotung 2,470 130 < 25 2,600
Onan Runggu 2,800 150 0 2,950
Parbaloan Urat 1,833 310 520 2,663
Tongging 1,947 157 < 25 2,104
Lumban Sitorus 150 1,640 0 1,750
2.2 Hydro-meteorological features of the lake and its drainage basin
Table 2: Climate data at Balige
( mm )
January 19.1 174
February 20.1 167
March 20.9 187
April 20.5 193
May 21.0 133
June 20.7 104
July 21.2 71
August 21.0 116
September 21.0 132
October 20.4 215
November 20.5 188
December 20.2 199
Annual 20.6 1,879
after Nontji, 1990
Solar radiation: 15.7 MJ m
The pattern of wind speed and direction varies, in January to April the wind speed can reach
4m/s, in June 8.8 m/s, and in October 7.1 m/s. If strong wind blows in June to October, big
waves as high as 1.8 m may be induced.
Surface water temperature are: Haranggaol: 27
C; Tigaras: 27; Tomok: 26; Simanindo: 27;
Pangururan: 27; Nainggolan: 27; Parapat: 27; Porsea: 26
Measurements for pH & COD (in mg/L) at seven stations along the coast of Lake Toba are: in
Lotung: 8.4 & 6.7; Situmeang: 7.9 & 6.8; Bukit: 8.4 & 9.3; Tongging I: 7.0 & 6.3;
Tongging II: 7.9 & 7.0; Onan Runggu: 7.6 & 7.0; Parapat: 8.2 & 8.0.
2.3 Geo-physical features of the lake and its drainage basin
The geology of Lake Toba has been a challenging topic to study. The formation of this lake is
the result of a mega-volcanic-activity during the Quaternary Era or the last two and a half
million years of the earth’s geological history. From a very broad analysis, this phenomenon
was the result of two major plates collision beginning during the Eosen Era or 65 million
years ago. These plates are the Indian Ocean or the Australian plates in the southwest and the
Asian Plate located in the northeast. This plate collision produced a long subduction zone that
was accompanied by a volcanic chain along Sumatra-Jawa-Nusa Tenggara up to the Moluccas
islands. In Sumatra it resulted in a large and long transform fault, the Sumatra Fault Zone
(SFZ). This is a 1700 km long fault, exposed from the Bay of Lampung in the south to the
Aceh region in the northern end of Sumatra Island. Lake Toba is not dissected by this SFZ
but is located some 20 km kilometer north-east of this fault, while the Batang Toru and Renun
Rivers are located and flowing along the fault.
Two major explanation of the lake geohistory was explained as (a) the product of one single
gigantic explosion or (b) product of multiple events. Each of these two hypotheses was again
divided or has smaller branches of its explanation. There were lively debates on the geological
timing of the event, whether they occurred recently (i.e. less than 75,000 years ago) or were
they the result of a series of geological up-doming, blasting, faulting, sedimentation, and upwrapping
which took place since two million years ago.
Lake Toba was lately been reported as the largest caldera lake in the world. This conclusion
was based on a report by van Bemmelen who stated the lake as a volcano-tectonic depression.
According to the hypothesis by van Bemmelen, the lake history started with the formation of a
Batak Tumor with an oval shaped, 300 km by 150 km region, located between the present
Wampu River in the north and the Barumun River in the south. The up doming produced a
region with elevations up to 2,000 m shown by top of mountains such as Mt. Sibuatan (2,457
m) in the NW, Mt. Pangulubao (2,151 m) in the east, and Mt. Surungan (2,173 m) in the SE,
and Mt. Uludarat (2,157 m) in the west.
Combined with previous scientific studies by Marel 1947, Tjia 1976, Karig 1978, Hamilton
1978, we came to the conclusion that the formation of Lake Toba was not a single event but a
combination of complex of events. It was the product of a series of events occurring east of
the Sumatra Fault. Other similar results were also encountered in study sites in the Lampung
area and Maninjau. These series of events occurred are closely related to the deep seated
occurrence of the Sumatra Fault starting two million years ago.
2.4 The watershed and jurisdictional features
The Lake Toba watershed covers an area of 3,704 km
embraces a part of the areas of five
Kabupaten (District) level government administrations, i.e. Kabupatens Tapanuli Utara, Toba
Samosir, Simalungun, Dairi and Karo. The landuse (1999) is dominated by scrub (41%),
followed by forest (22%), paddy field (14%), settlement (11%), grass (8%) and dry land (4%).
Within the Lake Toba region, there are areas reserved specifically for conservation purposes
which function as water resorption, air pollution control, ground stabilization and soil erosion
Kabupaten Toba Samosir which contributes its twelve kecamatans (subdistricts) governs the
largest portion of the watershed (64%), followed by four kecamatans of Kabupaten Tapanuli
Utara (21%), five kecamatans of Kabupaten Simalungun (10%), one of Kabupaten Karo (3%)
and one of Kabupaten Dairi (2%). The twenty three kecamatans of the five districts that are
included in the Lake Toba watershed are:
Sianjur Mula-mula, Harian, Simanindo, Pangururan, Palipi, Onanrunggu, Onanrunggu
Timur, Lumbanjulu, Porsea, Silaen, Laguboti and Balige of Kabupaten Toba Samosir;
Silimakuta, Purba, Dolok Pardamean, Sidamanik and Girsang Sipanganbolon of
Doloksanggul, Muara, Lintongnihuta and Siborong-borong of Kabupaten Tapanuli
Merek of Kabupaten Karo; and
Sumbul of Kabupaten Dairi.
2.5 The past social and economic development history and trends
Lake Toba basin contributes a sizeable share in the regional if not the national economy. The
natural beauty and the richness of Batak culture have given rise to the tourism industries
which provide economic benefit to the communities living in and around it. The unique
geographical position of Lake Toba reserves a number of economic potentials for the benefit
of the wide range of communities, especially as a source of bountiful fresh water and lust
tropical forest which attract the interest of big industries to invest in the areas.
The watershed population
The communities living in the Lake Toba watershed belong to the population of 366 villages
within five kabupatens. Based on 1999 statistic the population living in the watershed is
590,861. The lowest population density of 18 persons per sq. km is recorded at the sub-district
(kecamatan) Sumbul of District (Kabupaten) Dairi and the highest 355 person per sq. km is in
kecamatan Balige of Kabupaten Toba Samosir. Population density higher that 200
is recorded in kecamatans along the routes of economic activities, especially
along the trans Sumatra highway. There is no clear indication how it was determined, but the
North Sumatra provincial government states that the majority (63%) of Lake Toba basin
population belong to the poor category.
Farming, cash crops production, fishery, animal raising and tourism industry are the main
economic activities in the Lake Toba basin. The potential that has proven to support the life
of the population is food crop production. The agricultural sector still remains the mainstay
for the majority of people living in the Lake Toba basin. The rice fields within the watershed
cover an area of 41,123 hectares (1999). With an average yield of 5.2 tons of dry rice per ha
the basin could reach a production of approximately 250.000 tons of dry rice annually. Rice
growing is common in all the kecamatans, but the center of productions are in kecamatans
Porsea, Lumbanjulu, Balige and Silaen of Kabupaten Toba Samosir; kecamatan Doloksanggul
of Kabupaten Tapanuli Utara and kecamatan Sidamanik of Kabupaten Simalungun. During
the economic crisis of 1997 the agricultural sector was the mainstay for the population,
especially when the tourism industry also went down. .
The communities living on dry lands grow cash crops, particularly coffee, coconut, cloves,
pili nut and cinnamon bark. The total cash crop production area in the basin is 8,640 hectares.
Coffee is the most important crop of all since it is grown in all the kecamatans and to some
extent it is the source of income on which the life of a family depends. It is estimated that
coffee growing provides job opportunities for more than 27,000 families and a production of
4,000 tons of coffee beans annually. Animal rising, especially pig, cow, buffalo, and poultry
is done in a family as a side job.
Fishery is an activity done by communities of five kecamatans located directly on the
shoreline and is undertaken in two ways, fishing in open waters and fish culture in floating
cages/nets. The total caught from the open waters is close to 1,500 tons per year, consisting
mostly of six fish varieties, namely Cyprinus, Tilapia, Oreochromis, Puntius, Clarias, and
Ophyocephalus. Since 1996 the total catches has been declining by 5.13% annually. This
decline is probably caused by the growing in the number of fish predators and the decrease in
the natural fish sustenance in the lake.
Fish culture in floating cages or ‘karamba’ in local language is practiced by the individual
farmers as well as by the private enterprises, mostly foreign investment companies. It is
suspected that the leftover of the palletized feed used in the fish culture, individuals and well
as the companies, has polluted the lake water. Once there were 1,382 floating cages owned by
domestic and foreign companies in record, of which 862 (or 62%) were in Kabupaten
Simalungun, the remaining 520 (or 38%) in Kabupaten Toba Samosir. The fish cages owned
by the individual farmers of the five kabupatens included in the Lake Toba watershed are
1,694 unit, mostly located in the Kabupaten Toba Samosir (75%). The number of fish cages
has been increasing sharply during the last few years, especially those owned by the foreign
investors. It is estimated today there are 150,000 of such cages are floating in the lake waters.
The cage size owned by domestic and foreign companies is averagely 6×6 meters whilst those
owned by individual farmers is averagely 2×2 meters.
From the esthetics point of view, the attractiveness of Lake Toba lies in the internationally
renowned natural beauty. Seen from almost any angle the charm of the lake make a man like
being spelled with a feeling of ecstasy. The beauty of each corner of the lake Toba, the array
of green hills that make up the Bukit Barisan mountain range dressed with adorning
waterfalls are nothing new to this North Sumatra tourist attraction. The island of Samosir and
the coastline of Lake Toba are the birthplace of Toba Batak culture and home of invaluable
historical and cultural relics. It is in this place that the Batak culture is alive and manifested in
its genuine form. Modernization has caused population migration and today there are more
Batak living outside the region than those whose who remain in the vicinity of Lake Toba.
Yet, this home town remains the core of their identity as Batak in spite of their living in far
The total population of the five main tourist spots in Lake Toba consisting of
Tomok/Simanindo, Balige, Porsea, Ajibata and Parapat is 102,477 persons or 17% of the total
population of the entire Lake Toba watershed. The tourism industry has pushed the
development of 168 hotels, from the traditional Batak home-stay up to four stars hotel.
Although no systematic record was made, the crisis that later rammed Indonesian economy
made the number of tourists visiting Indonesia plunged drastically bringing with it a dullness
in the corollary business, both in trades and in services.
The Lake Toba basin economic potential was revealed since 1982 with the development and
operation of PT Inalum, an aluminum smelting plant which needs a great amount of electric
power produced cheaply from the Asahan River hydroelectric generator. PT Inalum is a joint
venture company between the Government of Indonesia and Nippon Asahan Aluminum Co.
Ltd of Japan with an initial capital of 411 billion yens or equal to approximately USD 2.4
billion. The share composition is 41.8% by the Indonesian government and 58.2% by the
PT Inalum which keeps two headquarters – Kuala Tanjung in the downstream at the smelting
plant and the Asahan River at the power generator – produces 225,000 tons aluminum ingot
per year while the power generator produces a total of 603 MW of electricity in two plants
(Sigura-gura: 286 MW and Tangga: 317 MW). In order to produce 450 MW of electricity
and to propel the eight turbines in the two generating plants a water discharge of 105
/second must be provided for by the Lake Toba. PT Inalum provides at least 2,500 job
opportunities for the local population.
The exploitation the basin’s forest potential began in 1985 when PT Inti Indorayon Utama
(IIU) put up a pulp and rayon processing plant taking its raw materials from the forests in six
kabupatens: Dairi, Karo, Simalungun, Tapanuli Utara, Toba Samosir and Tapanuli Selatan.
The capital invested for the plant amounted to USD 40 million and is located in the village of
Sosorladang, Kecamatan Porsea, Kabupaten Toba Samosir. The selection for the plant
location was made at the central government level. Indorayon is 62% owned by the
Singapore-registered Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd. which is listed on the
New York Stock Exchange. The other 38% of Indorayon is owned by the investing public,
cooperatives and a number of shareholders from Finland.
The operation of Indorayon was based-on the Joint Decree signed by the Research Minister
and Environmental Minister to give the green light for the plant’s construction and operation
in 1986. Indorayon has produced 1.8 million tons of pulp within ten years, during the period
of 1988 to 1998. Whereas from 1993 to 1998 it has produced 0.25 tons of rayon fiber as the
raw material for textiles. These productions were estimated to have consumed around 10
million cubic meters of wood.
For its business operation PT Indorayon secured a total of 269,060 ha forest concession
covering forest areas in Kabupatens Tapanuli Utara/Toba Samosir 167,943 ha, Tapanuli
Selatan 41,818 ha, Dairi 31,627 ha, Simalungun 22,533 ha and Tapanuli Tengah 5,139 ha. It
is not clear what portion of the concession area belongs to the Lake Toba watershed. What is
obvious is, the total concession area awarded to PT Indorayon is fourfold the area of Lake
Toba watershed forests, while the total number laborers employed from within the basin is
7,294 persons, or a mere 3% of the population of Kabupaten Toba Samosir who live within
the Lake Toba watershed.
2.6 Institutional and Managerial Features
Based on Act No. 22 year 1999 on Regional Autonomy, the North Sumatra Province is
responsible to coordinate certain issues involving two districts or more. In this case, the
management of Lake Toba involves five Districts that shared the watershed: Toba Samosir;
Tapanuli Utara, Simalungun; Karo, and Dairi plus two other Districts located at the down
stream of Asahan River that has indirect influences on Lake Toba, namely Asahan and
The level of institutional development and managerial capacity
The official institutions that are supposed to be responsible for the preservation of the Lake
Toba region are the provincial government of North Sumatra and the local governments of the
five Districts in Lake Toba region, in this case the BAPEDALDA of North Sumatra
(provincial-level Environmental Impact Management Agency) and the BAPEDALDAs of the
five districts. Up till now, BAPEDALDA’s activities still focused on the study of the
environmental condition of the Lake Toba region whilst to coordinate the preservation efforts
moreover to initialized the partnership with other organizations have not been performed yet.
The level of interest group and community awareness and involvement
Environmental problems are the problems of all components of the stakeholders. Cooperation
at the local level between the communities, NGOs and other environmentalists has to be
supported with community empowerment as the foundation of the preservation efforts in Lake
Toba region. There are numbers of successful implementation of community programs at the
local level, supported by local government, the national and international NGOs also
international agencies such as UNESCO. The pilot project of the community-based watershed
management that was conducted by LakeNet in association with LTHF is one example. The
other examples that could be recognized are:
The cooperation between the BAPPEDA (Planning Board) of the Kabupaten Tapanuli Utara
with Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in reforestation of critical land with the planting of
coffee and cinnamon tree in the area of nine hectares in Palipi village; the use of water
hyacinth for cattle food (pigs) and composting in Pangururan village, Samosir island; and
solid waste management of Muara town in the southern part of Lake Toba. All of those
activities involve the local community and has been contribute to the improvement of both the
environment and community’s income.
In the last recent years, UNESCO have supported three local NGOs in Lake Toba region, i.e.
YAPIDI (the Pijer Podi Foundation), YES (the Sumatra Eco-tourism Foundation), and GKPS
(the Simalungun Protestant Church Organization). YAPIDI work on ‘Human resources
participatory development in Sikodon-kodon and Tongging villages’ project, which focused
on micro credit, organic farming, tree planting and training for women groups. This NGO
prepared to get involved in the development of community radio under UNESCO
communication project in Indonesia. YES proceeds with its activity in improving the
economics through conservation of critical land in Paropo village, a town in the northern part
of the lake shoreline that was also included in the LakeNet’s watershed management pilot
project. GKPS made a good progress in its ‘Environmental preservation in Nagori Sihalpe
village’. The success of the village’s tree planting won the first award in the Kabupaten
Simalungun’s Environment Day and received a badge of appreciation from the President of
Indonesia. Success is also on organic farming, cage fishing and waste management in the
There are certainly some more activities at the grassroots level in Lake Toba region that has
been implemented by other NGOs or community groups. Unfortunately, there is no record on
the numbers of active NGOs in Lake Toba region moreover an adequate documentation or
reporting system of their programs as a reference. For those reason, in early 2000, UNESCO
has sponsored a national workshop on ‘Strengthening communication and local capacities for
community-based participatory environmental management of Lake Toba’ in Samosir Island.
This workshop was administered by LTHF, 20 out of 70 participants are representatives of
local NGOs. The rest were representatives of universities, LIPI (Indonesian Researches
Institute), local government agencies, press and international agencies i.e. UNDP and
Community-based management of Lake Toba
In 2001, LakeNet partnered with the LTHF to implement a pilot project on community-based
watershed management program for Lake Toba. The one-year demonstration program was
conducted as part of a six-year old sister lakes exchange partnership with Lake Champlain in
the U.S. The Lake Toba-Lake Champlain Sister Lakes Partnership began in 1996 with an
exchange visit to Indonesia by the coordinator of the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP)
at the invitation of the Lake Toba Heritage Foundation (LTHF). The exchange program was
coordinated by LakeNet, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving lakes
throughout the world.
Vermont Agency for Natural Resources (VTANR), in collaboration with LakeNet applied for
and was awarded a second grant in the amount of $40,000 through a special CSG/US-AEP
initiative to help bridge several exchange programs into an implementation phase. With this
bridge funding, project partners conducted a pilot program to demonstrate ways of developing
and implementing a community-based watershed action plan. The project activities as
Selection and training of 10 environmental cadres to serve as local leaders on
environmental initiatives related to Lake Toba.
A two weeks in-country study tour for the environmental cadres to East and Central Java
to observe and to study community mobilization efforts and commitment-building in
constructing, financing, managing and maintaining low cost community-based sewer
systems, the new low-cost composting technique in Malang, and the harvesting &
utilization of water hyacinths in Cirebon and Yogyakarta.
Completion of clean lake activities along 5 km of the lake’s shoreline in five
communities. More than 770 people participated in these activities, some of which
involved strenuous labor and difficult working conditions.
Training in environmental education & awareness for teachers from six Districts in the
Lake Toba area using a specifically developed ‘hands-on learning’ Water Module.
Formulation of community action plan through community meetings, involving 188
community members in identifying and discussing environmental problems and
concerns of Lake Toba.
Awareness campaign through distribution of 25,000 copies of an information brochure
in Indonesian language to promote environmental awareness.
The most important results of the implemented actions include:
The clean lake activities by volunteers, which included the removal by hand of large
patches of water hyacinths, opened up landing areas for local fishing and ferry boats that
had been inaccessible for almost three years, at the same time they reduced invasive
The study tour and on-the-job training (through participation in community meetings,
clean lake activities, teacher’s training and brochure distribution) resulted in the
effective in-country transfer of knowledge to the environmental cadres. Many of the
cadres have demonstrated their ability to help implement and sustain activities begun
during this project.
Teachers and representatives of three universities in the Lake Toba region gained
important environmental knowledge and educational materials.
Detailed resource inventory maps and action plans were completed in five communities
using a participatory approach.
New issues of concern on Lake Toba were identified for the first time, such as the
increase in the number of fish farms on the lake and their potential impact on water
Citizens and the community as a whole gained awareness by participating in community
meetings and clean lake activities.
Boat operators gained awareness of their role in environmental stewardship of Lake
Toba as a result of meetings held with this important stakeholder group.
Local partners learned the benefits of involving people and working with the community
in planning and implementation activities.
Long-term, if fully implemented, the project can be expected to have social, economic
and environmental impacts as improved sewage systems, invasive species reductions,
trash reduction and improved local capacity will improve Lake Toba and community
health, as well as facilitating poverty alleviation.
Publication of results on the Lake Toba Online website and through LakeNet’s electronic
forum of more than 900 members on lakes around the world.
In terms of stakeholders’ participation in this project, a total of almost 1,000 community
members were involved in the clean lake and community meetings aimed for the formulation
of community action plans. Participants included boat operators, farmers, fishermen, small
traders, vendors, housewives, and hotel owners. The ten environmental cadres were chosen
from grassroots participants and were central to all activities. Women were specifically
targeted to involve in the community meetings. The fact that 33% of the participants were
women is a significant achievement due to the very paternalistic local culture. The women
proved to be very active and outspoken in the community discussion and made real
contributions to the local action plans. Many community members made in-kind contributions
to the clean lake activities. Government officials from the local Police and sub-district
(kecamatan) office were involved in the clean lake activities. The Mayor of the City of
Malang and his staff provided all of the facilities needed during the study tour of the
environmental cadres from Lake Toba. The Governor of North Sumatra gave his support to
the environmental cadres before they departed for the study tour. Other NGOs at the national
and provincial level were also taking part in this project. The Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF)
provided the trainers and the environmental education training materials for schoolteacher.
Three researchers who were involved in formulating an environmental education book for the
elementary school children trained the teachers from the six districts of Lake Toba. Local
universities surrounding Lake Toba sent their representatives to the three days teachers’
There is a big potential for community participation in the efforts to sustain Lake Toba
drainage basin. The critical point lies in where and how we could improve the awareness and
understanding about the aspects of ecosystem sustainability and to bridge the community
awareness with a real action toward sustaining the lake ecosystem which at the same time also
renders benefit for the improvement of social economic condition of the community. This
means an integrated program between social economic improvement and sustainable
environmental development. The fact where community members from varying backgrounds,
schoolboys and girls, hotel owners, fishermen, traders, farmers, etc. join together in various
environmental activities such as regreening, garbage collection and water hyacinth clearing,
and environmentally sensitive farming practice are all positive indication to increase the
community awareness and involvement.
3. Biophysical Environment
The changes in Lake Toba region such as the reduction of the water level and pollution of the
lake directly affected the social and economic situation of the region, but most important put a
great threat to the biophysical environment.
3.1 Past and current conditions
The changes in Lake Toba region such as the reduction of the water level and pollution of the
lake directly affected the social and economic situation of the region, but most important put a
great threat to the biophysical environment.
Currently only 70 out of 202 rivers that discharge into Lake Toba flow continuously all year
round. According to historical data studies by Sastromijoyo, 1990, the discharge from Lake
Toba have shown a decrease during three phases:
Period 1920-1932, average inflow discharge to Lake Toba was 110.4 m3/s
Period 1957 – 1975 average inflow discharge to Lake Toba was 104.4 m3/s
Period 1976 – 1988, average inflow discharge to Lake Toba was 90 m3
Water level of Lake Toba suffers a continuous decline. Statistical data from 1982-1998
recorded by the Provincial Office of Department of Mining and Energy in North Sumatra
indicate a drop in the water level, yet not as big as what the community indicates. In January
1984 water level reading indicates 905.14 m above sea level, in September 1998 it is 902.66
m, which means a drop of 2.48 m. Even in July 1998 the level reads as low as 902.28 m, or a
drop of 2.86 m.
The rainfall data are discontinuous so that they are poor quality to prove whether there has
been any significant change, but indications are that a decline of the order of 10% may well
have occurred (Anonym, 1990). Other factors such as land use change may have contributed
an important part to the change.
The first topographic sketch map of the lake region was measured in 1887 by F. van Brenner
and van Mechel. In 1909 and 1913 the Porsea and Siruar region which are regions around the
Asahan River draining the lake, were washed by severe floods. In conjunction to these
events, in 1915 the Batu Bongbong near Siruar that obstructed the Asahan river outflow was
blasted away. Next, in 1918 it was first planned by the Dienst voor Waterkracht en
Electriciteit to construct a hydropower plant in the Asahan River.
3.2 History of lake degradation
Pollution from domestic waste has affected the water quality of the lake. In the 1970’s there
were no signs of water hyacinths on the lake but since 1990’s they were observed floating in
the Parapat area. Secchi disk reading of the water column in the center of the lake in 2001
was 11 m while in the Bay of Parapat near the Ajibata harbor it was less than 2.8 meters.
Local government/farmers have introduced fish of “alien species” that will infiltrate (swim)
into the whole lake area. These alien species may have to adapt to their new environment.
Adapt might also mean ‘will dominate’ the ecosystem. The other additional problem came
from the cage aquaculture. The fish food poured into the lake adds up the water pollution
problems. Fish cage culture started to develop since mid 1990 and has contributed to the
pollution of the lake water. In the year 2003, along the north Bay of Sigapiton, in Tomok,
Simanindo, and Pangururan at Samosir Island, and in Haranggaol were extensive fish cage
The water quality in Lake Toba during the last few years has been obviously deteriorated.
The oil content of the lake water reached the level of 7.5-35 mg/l. Biologically, the lake water
pollution obviously indicated by the evidence of pathogen bacteria such as faecal coliform of
1,000 mpn/100ml and total coliform of 20,000 mpn/100 ml of water
A water quality measurement study conducted by the Environmental Impact Management
Agency (BAPEDAL) in collaboration with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture in 1993
indicated a degradation of water quality in several beaches, particularly the waters in the
vicinity of Tigaraja-Ajibata, Tomok and Pangururan (on the island of Samosir) and at the
kecamatan of Balige (in Kabupaten Balige). In 1994, water quality in the surrounding rivers
exceed a level of pollution with a measured amount of 28 mg/l BOD (5 mg/l is considered
good) and is estimated to increase 1.5 times by the year 2010. The level of pollution in the
lake along the shore is 6.9 mg/l to 52.2 mg/l BOD and is estimated to increase 1.5 times by
It was found out, additionally, that in Ajibata and Tomok oil slicks were spreading up to a
radius of 150 meters from the beaches. From the aesthetics point of view, this has made the
beaches less attractive. Although the pollution caused by fuel and oil residues from water
transportation does not produce too significant impact, yet it is estimated that about 14.2 m
this stuff is spilled into the lake annually. There are about 190 boats operated in lake Toba
with the average capacity of 40 persons per boat. Another indicator suggesting the water
quality degradation in the lake is the growth of aquatic plant especially water hyacinth in a
number of places. Water hyacinth and other aquatic plants indicate that euthrophication
process of the lake water is on-going especially near the shorelines.
Parlagutan Siahaan, Pesan danau Toba (Message from Lake Toba bulletin), September 1999, page 8
The provincial government has identified major problems areas to be considered in Lake Toba
Water quality and water balance due to the operation of industries and water use by
inhabitants. Due to the low level hygiene behavior of the inhabitants, the untreated
domestic wastes are channeled directly into the lake.
Land use and land tenure. Land use has been practiced in disregard of the conservation
principles which have led the land condition to becoming more critical and more
susceptible to erosion. Farming practices disregard conservation technology aspect led
to the production of fertilizer and pesticide residues from agricultural activities. Land
tenure by the marga (clan) has made it difficult in practicing soil conservation
measures and sustainable land use.
Air pollution due to toxic gas emission from industrial plants and smoke produced by
forest fires and trash burning for land clearing. During the dry season forest fires are
not infrequent and trash burning is generally practiced in land clearing for estate crops
development, industrial forestry concession, animal shepherding, etc. These activities
produce air pollution, land and water system degradation and finally natural disaster in
the form of flooding and landslide, and extinction of flora and fauna.
3.3 Lake and drainage basin resource conflict
Two major industries in the drainage basin have, by many especially the communities living
around the lake, been accused as the most responsible party to cause the drop in the water
level of the lake. The traditional fishermen are the ones suffering most from the drop of lake
water level. The aquatic plants and shrubs in the shoreline which form the fish habitat wilt
and dead due to lack of water. Fish goes farther into the deep water making it difficult to
catch with the traditional hook or net. The community fish cages are not functioning because
they are now hanging in the open air. One to two kg of fish is what the fisherman can catch in
one day, which used to be five to seven kg. This condition has encouraged the growth in
number of poverty enclaves throughout the basin.
Forest clearing by PT Indorayon for raw materials in its industry has been accused as the main
reason for the drop of water level in the lake. As an example, the community pointed out that
the company cleared up to 3,000 out of 4,000 ha of pine forest in the kecamatan Ronggur Ni
Huta, Samosir and in its place is now young Eucalyptus growth about three to four years old.
The community claims that eucalyptus consumes water more greedily, therefore it does not
behave like a water catchment area, and rather it is the other way around. This conclusion
was, however, denied by the Forestry Research Center at Pematangsiantar who instead says
that broad-leafed plants such as eucalyptus, having a smaller number of stomata, are using
less amount of water compared to the needle leafed ones such as pine tree. The impact,
however, has not been studied comprehensively; it deserves one in the future. One important
aspect to look into pertains to the changes in soil quality due changes in its uses.
During its operational decade Indorayon has practiced negligence to matters concerning
pollution and environmental hazard, including the social economic aspect of the surrounding
Coordinating Board for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem Conservation, General Policy for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem
Conservation, January 2003, page 28.
community. A number of cases could be cited, including the leakage in tank containing toxic
gaseous chemical in 1993 where approximately 5,000 people from the neighboring villages
suffered and had to flee from their villages; uncontrolled disposal of waste materials from the
plant causing strong nausiating smell has drawn thousands from Porsea community to pledge
that the plant operation be closed down. The downstream communities claim that yields from
rice field and fresh water fish culture are continuously declining because the Asahan River on
which their economic activities depend is heavily polluted. Rejection by local population
because of the smell produced by the factory have temporary closed the plant. The plant was
temporary shut down and is now reducing its total activity to only producing pulp with a
promise to provide better waste water treatment plant.
The Indorayon plant required 400,000 cubic meters of water per day for processing, which
was taken from the Asahan River. The used water was returned to the Asahan River,
undoubtedly mixed with various toxic materials derived from the processing chemicals and
substance originated from the wood, as well as substance produced from the reaction of both
sources of chemicals. Of particular concern are toxic substances of the AOX category
(Absorbable Organic Halides), such as dioxin, pentachlorophenol and trichlorophenol. These
are the sources of substances in the liquid effluent.
Apart from the above toxic substances, during the processing of pulp, rayon, and the
production of process chemicals, various gases and vapors were released into the air, the
majority of which were toxic and foul-smelling. Although at that time the most objectionable
effect felt by the community was the odor, over the long term, the toxic effect is the most
alarming. The majority of gasses released from the pulping process is collectively known as
Non Condensable Gasses (NCG), especially H2S and MMC (Methylmercaptan).
It is not only Indorayon, the community as well as other stakeholders also accused PT Inalum
hydroelectric as another party responsible for the drop in the lake water level. Electricity is the
soul for PT Inalum. Aluminum smelting needs a great deal of electric power generated from
the Sigura-gura and Tangga plants which rely solely on the Asahan River, Lake Toba’s only
discharge outlet. The problem is, the discharge of the Asahan River cannot be arbitrarily
spurred without any detrimental effect to the water level in the lake.
From the technical aspect, to operate eight turbines in order to generate 450 MW of
electricity, the Asahan hydroelectric needs a discharge of 105 m
/second and this requires that
the lake water level stays at 905.5 m above sea level. In mid July 2002 the level records as
low as 902.5 m, a critical level for Lake Toba. To prevent further decrease in water level the
Asahan hydroelectric used only 80 m
/secondof water which means idling some of the
turbines. The generated electricity becomes less than 450 MW, consequently the ingot
production drops to 180,000 tons per annum or 80% of capacity. That is why the company
claims that they are operating at a loss because they are unable to produce at full capacity.
The biggest advantage obtained by the communities in North Sumatra from the existence of
Inalum is the improvement of infrastructures that in turn encourage the regional development
in several support sectors. When the hydroelectric plant was under construction the only
access for heavy machineries and the giant turbines was through the port of Belawan. As a
The impacts of PT. Inti Indorayon Utama’s Operations on the Environment of Lake Toba, LTHF, 2000, page 6
consequence, major improvement to the road connecting Belawan and the upper part of the
Asahan river had to be made. To enable to hold big trucks and trailers lugging heavy
containers and machineries new bridges with hundreds of tones of capacity were built. The
construction of PT Inalum site was accompanied with the development of a new, 200 ha town
called Tanjung Gading some 16 km from the smelting plant at Kuala Tanjung. Tanjung
Gading was built from zero on a swampy land area. With a total of 1,340 housing units
Tanjung Gading helped to develop the east coast of North Sumatra. Presently the
approximately 10,000 population of the new town has provided employment to many on a
place which used to be secluded and very lonely.
Apart from the aforementioned advantage, the hope for the communities around Lake Toba to
obtain cheap electricity to enable them develop small scale and home industries, is seemingly
difficult to materialize. The Asahan hydroelectric was expected to deliver the excess energy to
the communities of Porsea, Parapat and Balige besides selling it to PLN Region II. However,
as a result of the drop in water level in Lake Toba, the reverse is happening, PT Inalum buys
60 MW of electricity from PLN every month. It has been twenty years since PT Inalum
started operation in 1982, the Toba communities remain unchanged, their home economy is
still dependent upon rice cultivation.
Obviously, cage aquaculture in Lake Toba during the last couple years continues to expand
and intensify, most of them are owned by foreign investors. From the economic stand point
especially under the recent economic crisis in Indonesia it is often viewed as desirable as it
can generate employment, income and food, support for other activities also increase the local
government income. On the other hand, cage aquaculture has its disadvantages too. Wastes
from cages are freely released into the environment, potentially interacting with the entire
water body. Intensive cage culture, when unregulated, can cause severe environmental
problems. Cage farms in lakes and reservoirs are thus vulnerable, both to general pollution
and to self-inflicted water quality-related problems, not to mention the social conflict due to
social inequity. Appropriate regulation, based on a much better understanding of the technical,
environmental and socio-economic conditions is needed. From several community meetings
that have been held, community members especially the boat owners and drivers questioned
the existence of ‘karamba’ in five locations of Kabupaten Simalungun and Kabupaten Toba
Samosir. They estimated that about 10 tons of fish food per day is poured into the lake.
Maintaining a clean environment is one aspect of the Lake Toba watershed management
program which is highly related to the behavior of the people in the surrounding communities.
The way the community treats its environment depends on its level of understanding and
knowledge. Due to the low level of hygiene behavior, the community channeled household
waste directly into the lake including most of the hotels and restaurants located in the
shoreline of the tourist area. The scene of a family using the lake water for drinking, washing,
bathing and defecating at the same spot is common in many areas. From the research of Lake
Toba water quality in 1993, it was concluded that human settlements are the dominant source
of pollutant, ranged between 47% to 58% in all four potentially polluted zones. Lake’s
pollution due to the untreated domestic wastes is household’s and community issues, and, thus
requires recognition of specific situational social and cultural factors.
4. Management Environment
4.1 Lake management programs and processes
In the recent years a management committee concept has been offered several times by many
parties including the government, private sector, NGO even the community group all for the
purpose of improvement in the management and environmental preservation in Lake Toba
basin. But, as it turned out, it is not easy to make the concept into reality because of various
different perception and conflict of interest among the stakeholders. The establishment of
management committee in Lake Toba is so important if a coordinated preservation and
collaborated efforts among the various parties is to be achieved.
In the absence of such management committee it will be difficult to build a common vision
among the stakeholders and the environmental preservation effort will work partially,
regardless of who is taking the initiative, the government, NGO, private sector or the
community group. As a result, the impact of the effort is negligible or none at all. The
natures of the activities which are generally a crash program indicate the absence of a planned
and sustainable program implementation.
Establishment of Coordinating Board for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem Conservation
Apart from the pros and cons for the establishment of a management committee, in May 2002
the Governor of North Sumatra through a Letter of Decision No. 062.05/245/K/ 2002 named a
Coordinating Board for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem Conservation. The Board consists of the
related government agencies, provincial as well as kabupaten, and the representatives of two
NGO’s, namely LTHF from the national level and Yayasan Peduli Samosir Danau Toba
(YPSDT) or ‘the Samosir Lake Toba Foundation’ from the provincial level. Two kabupaten
level administrative governments are added into the membership together with the five
kabupatens within the Lake Toba drainage basin area. These two are Kabupaten Asahan and
the municipality of Tanjung Balai. The responsibility of the Coordinating Board includes the
formulation of the general policy and coordination of efforts and initiatives taken by the
different component of the stakeholders; monitor the environmental impact and the
rehabilitation effort; and mobilization of community participation.
To assist the Coordinating Board, the Governor also formed a Technical Advisory Committee
with members consisting of representatives from provincial level technical agencies,
representatives from a number of universities and research institutes, and the Asahan River
Authority. It is hoped that the Coordinating Board could help to solve the possible conflicts
arising from the different interests among different stakeholders involved in the Lake Toba
drainage basin. Figure 2 & 3 shows the organization structure of the Coordinating Board and
the Technical Advisory Committee.
As of today a well planned comprehensive program and systematically implemented is non
existent. The newly appointed Coordinating Board for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem
Conservation, however, has formulated a general policy for Lake Toba ecosystem
conservation which is intended as a reference and guideline for the stakeholders in planning
and implementing pollution control and environmental rehabilitation program. The General
Policy for Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem Conservation was formulated based on the Governor’s
Letter of Decision No. 660/067.K. Whether the programs as formulated in the general policy
were applicable will remain a question because it seems there is a need for a preparatory
process which may take a certain length of time. At the very least, the formation of the
Coordinating Board and formulation of the general policy are indications that the regional
government political wills which hopefully could be regarded as the initial step towards the
Lake Toba conservation efforts.
Organization Structure of Coordinating Board
for Lake Toba Ecosystem Conservation
Technical Advisory Committee
4.2 Reduction of lake stresses
Though small and quite preliminary as it may seem, the efforts toward environmental
preservation is beginning to take place through the issuance of a number of regulations at the
central as well as the regional government levels. At the national level, Law No. 23 Year
1997 on the Environmental Management serves as the umbrella for the formulation of
environmentally related regional level regulations. This Law stipulates the right, the role and
responsibility of the community, the authority in environmental preservation, the requirements
in environmental arrangement, solution to environmentally related disputes, investigation and
stipulation pertaining to violations and consequences.
In 1999, an inter-departmental team from the central government led by the Department of
Tourism, Art and Culture worked out a draft of a Presidential Decree on Lake Toba Basin
Management. LTHF was invited as resource and reference party. It was quite unfortunate,
though, the Presidential Decree failed to get presidential signature because when the draft was
introduced for socialization to the stakeholders it met with a variety of different perception
regarding its future implications.
At the provincial level, the government has issued a regional Government Regulation No. 1
Year 1990 on the Lake Toba Basin Management which stipulates the prohibition to build a
construction with a radius up to ten meters from the shoreline.
In order to limit the fast growing aquaculture owned mostly by foreign investors, the
government had issued Presidential Decree No 96 of the year 1998 concerning the prohibition
of foreign investment for aquaculture in inland waters.
Limitation in water use
To ward off the accusation as being the main cause for the drop of Lake Toba water level, PT
Inalum says that they are using water within the limit of the prescribed amount. The
hydroelectric generator is activated only if the water level reads 902.40 m above sea level and
higher. To ascertain this PT Inalum has built a regulating dam at Siruar, 12 km from the
mouth of the Asahan River at Porsea. The Siruar gate also regulates water level so as not to
exceed 905.50 m, otherwise many villages around the lake would be inundated. The Asahan
Authority as the representative of government is strictly controlling water use within the limit
Change in the management of PT. Indorayon
The controversial PT Indorayon later changed its name into PT Toba Pulp Lestari (PT TPL).
The change of the name is in compliance with the central government decision taken in a
cabinet meeting May 2000 to close down the rayon production and to continue the pulp
industry. PT TPL promised to change its management style to be more environmentally
sensitive; more willing to work together with the local community by allowing them to
practice mutually beneficial intercropping. PT TPL is also willing to accept and support
independent institution with expertise to supervise the use of the natural resources. But above
all, PT TPL will set aside 1% of its net revenue from the sales of the product for the Toba
Samosir government to be used for the environmental management. Supposing the annual
pulp production is 200,000 tons at a price of USD 350 per ton. The Kabupaten Toba Samosir
government will receive USD 700,000 per year. This amount is well above the genuine
regional revenue, a clearly tempting offer in a time of economic crisis such as it is now.
Construction of Parapat-Ajibata wastewater treatment plant
Parapat is one and the busiest tourist center in Lake Toba region. The tourist area of Parapat
located on the shores of Lake Toba has an area of 140 hectares. The total residents of about
21,000 people not including the tourists themselves increases the problems of sewage from
households and businesses. Almost all of the untreated household waste disposed directly into
the lake. The quality of water has been reduced to the point that it is necessary to institute
immediate steps to solve the problem with the construction of a waste water treatment plant.
The development of the sewerage system was started from the dense population around the
lake, the area of hotels and restaurants by using a conventional sewerage system. The
wastewater from households, hotels and restaurants channeled to a main wastewater pipe.
From the pipe it is then processed and put into the aeration ponds. Through the Department of
Public Works, construction of the Parapat-Ajibata wastewater treatment plant began in the
month of October 1994 when funds from an OECF sector loan was available. Most of the
constructed 1.5 km main and secondary sewer pipes located at the Parapat town of Kabupaten
Simalungun while the 2,010 m
capacity of sewage treatment plant with aerated lagoon
system located at Ajibata town of Kabupaten Tapanuli Utara. This facility is equipped with
pump lifts at three sites each with a capacity of 60-l/second and 5.3-m head, and with a
pressure pump in one site with a capacity of 60 l/second and 41.94 m head.
The Parapat-Ajibata treatment plant was constructed with the capacity to serve 17,400 people
with an addition of about 4,500 tourists per day in the high season. Until the year of 2001,
only fourteen households and two hotels hooked-up, due to the lack of the social marketing of
Critical land rehabilitation program
The Lake Toba water has been so disturbed particularly during the last few decades due to the
disruption in hydrologic cycle from extensive clearing of forest cover around the lake,
therefore the priority action for the rehabilitation of the environmental condition is by
reforestation of the basin which includes 50,192 ha of highly eroded (critical) lands or 29% of
the watershed area. The North Sumatra provincial government has a program to rehabilitate
the vegetative cover of over 104,570 ha critical lands in the Lake Toba watershed. The
program is divided into two parts, one part being rehabilitation of 50,192 ha into complete
forest cover comprising the production and conservation forest. The other part is replanting
54,378 ha of critical lands with perennial crops (estate crops and mountain horticultural
gardens). The perennial crops are good in two ways, as ground cover and at the same time
increase land productivity to improve the farmers’ income. It is hoped that through this
program the critical lands could turn green again and thus increase soil water holding
capacity, reduced run-off, erosion and sedimentation, and eventually improve water quality
and quantity of Lake Toba and at the same time maintain soil fertility in the farm lands.
4.3 Enabling Environment
The critical policy and institutional framework for management of the lake
Before the establishment of the Coordinating Board Lake Toba region has been proposed by
UNESCO to be designated as a Biosphere Reserves, focused on three main activities:
conservation of bio-diversity; economic and social development; and preservation of
associated cultural values. With the biosphere reserves status it was expected that Lake Toba
will receive international attention and invite international participation in its development
and preservation. According to the Act No.24, 1992 about the Spatial Planning, the Biosphere
Reserves is identical with ‘Special Region’, a region with prioritized spatial planning.
Designation of a region as a ‘Special Region’ needs a Presidential Decree. Up to this time this
proposal does not push through for lack of the Presidential Decree.
The general policy which was formulated by the Coordinating Board has put the formulation
of a comprehensive and environmentally sensitive Lake Toba drainage basin management
master plan a priority. The Coordinating Board must see to it that the master plan sufficiently
accommodate aspiration of all the stakeholders. Since the enactment of regional autonomy
each kabupaten reserves authority to manage its region and each is trying her best to reach the
highest possible genuine regional revenue target. For this purpose all the five kabupatens tend
to grant permit to capital investment, and forest logging is the main resource, followed by
fishery and estate crops. With the union of the five kabupatens into a coordinating board it is
hoped that a common vision and commitment could be reached and for the shake of
maintaining the sustainability of Lake Toba basin ecosystem they would refrain themselves
from using natural resources in an abusive manner.
Lake Toba drainage basin in not only home for 590,861 local population of the watershed but
also a promising area that attracts outsiders, domestic as well as foreign, to invest in business
undertaking. Therefore, all the interested parties related to Lake Toba are the stakeholders:
the government, the private/business sector, and the grassroots level communities. The
community is the main stakeholder since anything done upon the drainage basin will bear
direct consequences to the people living in lake Toba watershed.
At the national level there are at least eight institutions with interest to this area, especially
those connected to give approval on foreign investment, namely Departments of Forestry,
Agriculture, Tourism and Culture, Finance, Marine and Fishery, State Ministry for
Environmental Affairs, Asahan River Authority, and the Agency for Studies and Application
of Technologies which played a significant role in the initial decision on PT Indorayon.
At the provincial level there are the Offices and Agencies of Forestry, Estate Crops,
Agriculture, Marine and Fishery, Mining and Energy, Tourism and Culture, Planning Agency
(BAPPEDA), provincial level Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDALDA),
Meteorology and Geophysics, PDAM (Local Government Water Company) and the River and
Lake Transportation Agency.
At the kabupaten level the head of administration (Bupati) is directly involved; he is assisted
by the related agencies in his subordination such as BAPPEDA, BAPEDALDA, etc.
Although several agencies in each level of the government have been undertaking efforts
related to sustaining environmental condition in Lake Toba, the Coordinating Board has to
admit the weakness of coordination among agencies within one single kabupaten as it is with
one province, between province and the kabupaten and between the government and the
community. It is the sectoral approach that makes a program of one agency alien to one
another. This is exactly why the Coordinating Board has to be established.
In the meantime, in comparison with other stakeholders the community participation at the
grassroots level for environmental sustainability of the Lake Toba basin is generally better,
though they must be accompanied and facilitated by NGOs. As is discussed in chapter two
about a variety of grassroots level programs though small as they may seen to be but have
proven to produce tangible result in sustaining the Lake Toba basin ecosystem
Thus, there is a big potential for community participation in the efforts to sustain Lake Toba
drainage basin. The critical point lies in where and how we could improve the awareness and
understanding about the aspects of ecosystem sustainability and to bridge the community
attention with a real action toward sustaining the lake ecosystem which at the same time also
renders benefit for the improvement of social economic condition of the community. This
means an integrated program between social economic improvement and sustainable
environmental development. A favorable indication about the potential of community
attention is the fact where community members from varying backgrounds, schoolboys and
girls, hotel owners, fishermen, traders, farmers, etc. join together in various environmentally
related preservation activities such as regreening, garbage collection and water hyacinth
clearing, and environmentally sensitive farming practices.
Monitoring and research capacity
Routine monitoring such as rainfall data is performed by the Agency for Meteorolgy and
Geophysics which maintains 11 rainfall measuring stations all over the basin. The water level
fluctuation in the lake is monitored by the provincial office of the Department of Mining and
Energy. In the meantime, speaking about rehabilitation and maintaining sustainability of
Lake Toba ecosystem is speaking about a complicated and multi-dimensional problem. The
root causes vary extensively and the problems have been piling up for several decades. A
number of researches have been conducted, such as study on water quality, analysis about
suitability of plant species, identification of the diversification of plant species, and field trial
on the application of environmentally sensitive concept in land use. But all the researches
seem to be partial and are focused in some specific aspects only. Beside, the agencies
conducting the research tend to be closed one from the other and keep the results for
themselves. There is yet no solid and comprehensive research project covering major aspects
and concerns in Lake Toba. Some of the researches/studies that have been conducted are as
Study on water quality, by the BAPEDAL in collaboration with the Bogor Institute for
Study on the disturbance to Lake Toba basin ecosystem, by the BAPEDALDA in
collaboration with the Faculty of Geography, University of Gadjah Mada, 2000;
Study on the suitability of several perennial trees to critical lands in the Lake Toba
watershed and nutrient depletion in soils under eucalyptus stands, by Forestry
Research Center Pematang Siantar;
Study on land rehabilitation and soil conservation, by North Sumatra Provincial
BAPPEDA in collaboration with Community Development Research Divison,
University of North Sumatra.
The past and on-going financial investment
Up to this time no specific records are available about the size of capital invested for the
purpose of Lake Toba preservation efforts since such a program is implemented singularly in
isolation one from the other. However, there are a few small investments that could be found
in records here and there:
In 1996, UNESCO in cooperation with the Government of Denmark through
DANIDA supported the publication of newsletter ‘Pesan Danau Toba’ (Message from
Lake Toba) as a vehicle of information exchange to accelerate environmentally
friendly development of the region. LTHF administered the publication of 1,500 copy
Lake Toba has received financial support from the U.S. government. Starting in 1996,
over a period of six years, the investment of U.S. federal funds totals just over
$400,000, and matching funds from other sources in the U.S. totals approximately
$220,000. The fund from various sources is used in a series of projects on Lake Toba
under the sister lakes partnership between Lake Toba and Lake Champlain, including
the program implementation at the grassroots level.
Although no specific commitment and confirmation about financing, there are at least two
funding sources available for use in the Lake Toba ecosystem preservation. First, the North
Sumatra government administration and DPRD (Provincial Parliament) have tried to obtain
clarification regarding the annual fee for Lake Toba conservation paid by PT Inalum to the
government through the Ministry of Finance which up to now is unclear what it is used for.
The accumulated fee paid from 1982 through 1999 has reached an amount of USD 59 million.
Second, according to North Sumatra BAPEDALDA PT. TPL has paid the local community
development foundation, the Toba Samosir Community Development Foundation the amount
of money as initially agreed upon.
The Coordinating Board for Lake Toba Basin Conservation is unable to cite the definite
amount of fund available for maintaining the sustainability of the lake’s drainage basin. It
only indicates that the potential funding sources would be: Central Government Budget
(APBN), Provincial Government Budget (APBD), Kabupaten Budget (APBD), national and
international NGO’s, and other non binding sources.
Lake Toba is grossly benefited from the Sister Lakes Partnership with Lake Champlain of the
State of Vermont, USA. In 1996 a delegation from Lake Toba consisting of government
representatives, the business and industrial sector and the university visited Lake Champlain
to see for themselves and learn the concepts of integrated management implementation of a
lake drainage basin systematically and in economically profitable manner. The delegation
from Lake Champlain has also visited Lake Toba in 1999 to look closely the potential and the
problem faced by Lake Toba. The “people to people” exchange has proven quite effective
media for learning.
5. Lesson learned and recommended initiatives
Stakeholders’ involvement are key to program design, implementation and effective action
The new management paradigm for Lake Toba drainage basin conservation particularly in the
context of coordination among stakeholders covering community group, NGO, private sector
and the government must be created and strengthened. It is expected that through an
integrated and coordinated approach, a synergetic effort could be made into reality. This will
result setting of common priorities, mutual understanding in the approaches to be applied and
prevention of duplication and overlapping of activities in which one claims that one is the best
above all others. Finally, a sustainable development process in Lake Toba drainage basin will
become a reality.
The establishment of Coordinating Board at least indicates the political will of the North
Sumatra provincial government in its effort in Lake Toba management. Most of its members
are ex-officio, though; several of them represent regional and national level NGO’s. Being
newly appointed, the effectiveness of the Board is still yet to be seen, and this may need a
considerable length of time. However, in the long run the Coordinating Board could become
very strategic institution if only it could maintain a continuing community development effort
and to iron out the different interests of the various stakeholders in order they could work
synergistically including filtering out any exploitative conduct in natural resources based
economic activity. The Coordinating Board must be able to maintain continuation in building
synergism, coordination and sustainable development of Lake Toba drainage basin, including
regular monitoring to allow timely corrective measures should there be any deviation in the
The involvement of environmental stakeholders at all levels is indispensable, one of them
being the grassroots community. The Lake Toba watershed management is impossible
without the involvement of the communities living in it. The adoption of participatory
approaches into the development projects in Indonesia has been increasing over the past
several years. During the past three decades, the government of Indonesia has used
centralized, top-down approach in many development sectors, resulted in lots of abandoned
infrastructures and facilities with large investment. The political changes in 1998 have
created a bigger autonomy for the provincial and the local governments and so opened a wider
chance for community direct involvement in development activities.
Field observations have convinced many, including development practitioners, that the
participation of the community in the decision-making process greatly influences the
implementation and sustainability of the project. The participatory approach is an effort to
solve common problems through building and use of community knowledge upon matters
related to the problem. The dynamic, demand-based and change-oriented participatory
approach improves care and capability of the community by giving them skills to analyze and
solve their own problems. The participatory data and information collection and inventory
process by the community stimulates the sense of belongings and involvement in the
implementation of the plan they themselves developed.
Community-based activities with profound participatory approach hopefully could bring into
the policy development process the voices of usually excluded principal stakeholder group –
the community. From the experiences of the community-based project implementation in
Lake Toba region, policy makers can draw insight what works and why, and use that
knowledge to create strategies to bridge the gap between national or regional policy and local
practice. Through the application of dialogical approach combining bottom up and top down
program formulation practices it is expected that community commitment in Lake Toba basin
conservation program implementation could be developed and improved.
Capacity building on community participation
Community participation is essential, not optional. Community-based approach offers the
most promising strategy for sustainable watershed management of Lake Toba. Whether
planning a wastewater treatment facility, rehabilitation of critical land through tree planting,
introducing environmentally sound farming, solving water supply problems, implementing
measures to improve water quality or trying to change personal hygiene behaviors of people
in the community, the most effective programs are those which involve citizens and
stakeholders from the very beginning. Perhaps this is one of the more useful lessons that can
be learned from the community-based pilot projects, especially when one considers the
investments in wastewater infrastructure and other environmental projects on Lake Toba and
elsewhere in Indonesia where all too often a facility is built or a plan developed without input
or involvement from the community. More often than not, the lacks of a community-based
approach results in facilities that do not operate and plans that are not implemented.
Unfortunately, even when provincial and district government staff are committed to a
participatory approach as stated in the General Policy for the Lake Toba Basin Ecosystem
Conservation document, they may not have the capacity to implement it. Lack of incentives
and skills among government staff to encourage them to adopt a participatory approach is the
main reason. Clearly, if government staffs are not provided with the necessary knowledge,
skills and incentives to work in a participatory way with local communities, their willingness
and ability will be severely hampered. Government staffs are often less qualified to work in a
flexible, responsive manner in facilitating community action. Thus, they have less capacity to
develop participatory forms of working; their decisions therefore tend to be taken in a more
top down manner, involving only the village leader or a small group of the elite members of
the community. Furthermore, the standard government system for planning, transferring and
accounting for funds means those government personnel do not have the time, authority or
resources to modify the program to suit the changing needs of the community. Workshop and
training on the proper mechanism of community participation is necessary not only for the
local community itself but more importantly is for the government officials.
Planning must be supported by a strong research and monitoring program
To enable to develop a workable, comprehensive and widely accepted Lake Toba basin
management master plan and to put the common vision into reality, it is necessary to build a
thorough research base in a wide range of disciplines and a support from complete and
accurate data obtained from continuous and regular monitoring program. The availability of
such data would make the implementation of the lake Toba basin conservation be undertaken
in a holistic approach covering every angle of the problems, and the success level and its
impact to all stakeholders is significant.
In the general policy for Lake Toba basin ecosystem conservation for instance, there is a
specific mention about zoning of cage aquaculture as one component of the master plan, and
for this purpose there is a need for an extensive and in-depth study. Up to this time there is no
study made in the impact of the vast growing cage aquaculture to Lake Toba waters. The
absence of accurate and reliable data is evidently a hindrance to formulating a program. All
this time, every attempt to rehabilitation or preservation works in Lake Toba have had to start
it from ground zero, i.e. visiting various government agencies in order to collect the basic data
needed. It often happens that data users do not know where to find the basic data they need,
and if by luck the data were available the users were not sure if the data were reliable and
accurate. There is no assurance about the reliability of data and good in terms of statistics
(data collection technique) as well as in terms of non-technical aspect, whether there were
already manipulated due to some specific interest. The establishment of an information center
to collect, arranges, update, verify, process and disseminate them to the parties who are in
need for accurate data/information is urgent. The proposal for Lake Toba Science Center
which will function as education and environmental research center in Lake Toba area is not
only important for the future in assisting educational institution and developing community
awareness in environmental aspect, but could also function as a data clearing house for Lake
Integrate science and policy throughout the lake management institution
Research and monitoring would be essential components if the changes occurring in the lake
are to be properly understood. Apart from the fact there is very little has been done in terms of
science and social research, the few works that have been done were not sufficiently published
let alone directly informed to the policy makers, the more so with the grassroots level
communities. The research community, especially the science research tends to be closed.
The reports of findings from many costly researches have found their way into the library
which should have been used as input to the policy makers. On the other hand, the policy and
decision makers seem to ignore the scientific advices to formulating decision. Therefore, it is
necessary to build a communication bridge between the scientist and the policy makers
especially in the context of relevant scientific advices and provision of feedback in the form of
what could be done and not to be done in solving a problem. The communication between the
researchers and the grassroots level community should also be established because the
community also needs scientific information in order to understand the ecosystem in which
they live. For that purpose the scientific terms and language level must be simplified since
frequently the scientific information is too technical to be understood by the policy maker let
alone the community at the grassroots level.
Environmental awareness and education
Community members are the best influencers and communicators for change. People are more
easily convinced by their neighbors’ experiences and tend to trust those they live with rather
than outsiders. When a new facility such as the community-based wastewater treatment plant
is introduced, its pros and cons must be fully understood before it gets accepted. Explanation
by outsiders may serve to inform people, but they trust and accept the information to be true
only when a relative, neighbor or a local leader checks it out and confirm it. Many of the ten
environmental cadres who were selected from the local respective community included in the
pilot project have demonstrated their ability to help implement activities begun during this
project. However, the sustainability of their willingness to be the community motivator after
the project is over could not be guaranteed as it is a very high dedicated work. A more
thorough selection process of the environmental cadres as the indigenous potential change
agents is needed. At least three months or more is necessary to devote to the exploration of the
dedicated, committed and trust worthy indigenous potential change agents. A scheme of small
incentives is important to support the environmental cadres for the time and energy they
devote to promoting environmental awareness and initiatives.
Behavior change does not happen until people realize or experience the benefit resulting from
the change. Behavior can be said to have changed only when newer behavior patterns replace
older one consistently and are sustained thereafter. Measuring the change of behavior as a
result of environmental education of schoolchildren would certainly take a very long time, but
the results can be far more effective and sustainable. Training for the elementary school
teachers on the practical environmental education has been expanded to cover more than a
hundred teachers and community leaders in Lake Toba region and it has to be continued.
The implementation of environmental education is a very appropriate means for raising
awareness at the elementary school level because the subject is filled with social, cultural and
ethical norms. Environmental education is urgently needed to help students develop an
attitude of caring for the environment and avoiding behaviors that hurt the environment in
their early years. Environmental education can also help students begin to realize that they
themselves are an inseparable part of the environment and to feel a sense of stewardship and
moral commitment to environmental conservation. Environmental education at the elementary
school level is not an independent subject at the current time. It is generally taught as part of
other subjects such as social science, natural science and family welfare. As a result,
environmental awareness tends to be low among school-age children. At the later stage,
mainstreaming the environmental education into the local curriculum of environmental
education would be a great advantage for the health of Lake Toba.
Environmental sustainability, economy and poverty alleviation
The economy and environment are two inseparable aspects, especially the natural resourcesbased
economic activities. The economic aspect can be viewed from the local, regional,
national and international angles. The business sector in the basin viewed from
regional/national context is related to manpower and from international context is the
international capital share. From the environmental aspect is how to sustain the Lake Toba
drainage basin as an income generating source for local population and pleasantness to the
international community. Since the implementation of environmental regulation in Indonesia
in still very weak, it is prerequisite that the law enforcement apparatus must be improved.
Proper law enforcement would guarantee that everyone could work and invest its capital
safely and justice in the community could be established.
The links between environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation in the context of
sustainable development are also important, particularly for natural resource management.
The poor often contribute to environmental degradation when pushed to the margins in order
to survive. More important, environmental degradation from various aspects of
industrialization and growth have had very adverse effects on the poor: air and water pollution
affect their health, soil erosion weakens their productive capacity, and land encroachment
restricts their access to traditional productive assets. Since poverty is seen as both a
consequence and cause of environmental degradation, improvements in environmental quality
should help to reduce poverty and vice versa. Poverty alleviation, however, needs a
multidimensional approach. The root causes is complex – including for Lake Toba – and must
be well understood in order to find the appropriate alternative for integrated and structured
solution. And this, of course, is beyond the scope of this report, it requires an extensive study
of it’s own.
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