UNESCO Meeting: Talking Standardization for Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve

UNESCO pays attention in conserving biodiversity. With a total 705,270 hectares, Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu is now facing challenges, ASEFI with more than 37 stakeholders are working. Supported by ITTO – some intervenes to narrowing conservation, social welfare, and economic, also building networking.

Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges, and play a critical role in conserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable development, and fostering harmonious coexistence between humans and the environment (UNESCO). Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Nowadays, around 280 million people live in and depend on biosphere reserves across the world in 748 biosphere reserves in 134 countries, including 23 transboundary biosphere reserves (TBR). In Indonesia context, since 1977 until 2022, UNESCO have designated 20 Biosphere Reserve in Indonesia with a total area of 30,580,669,46 hectare, consist of core area cover 5,409,794.47 hectare, buffer area cover 7,7699,308.565 hectare, and transition area cover 17,401,566,235 hectare. This rich biodiversity underscores Indonesia’s unwavering commitment to environmental conservation and the nations vital role in preserving our planet heritage for future generation.

Under the theme “Optimizing multi-stakeholders collaboration for biodiversity conservation and socio-economic resilience in biosphere reserves”, the 15th Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserves Network (SeaBRnet) meeting was held in Wakatobi Biosphere Reserve at Wangi Wangi Island, Wakatobi, Indonesia on 30 April – 2 May 2024. The meeting is hosted by the Government of Wakatobi, supported by Wakatobi National Park and Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, facilitated by the SeaBRnet Secretariat at UNESCO Jakarta, and supported by Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and also ITTO Project PD 712/13 Rev.3 (F).

Enhancing Landscape Management of Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve

In the total area of 705,270 hectares of the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve is facing many problems and challenges. The core area of GSK-BR area is a distinctive wildlife and nature area characterized by specific and unique features. The area is habitat for protected and flagship animals of Sumatra such as Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant, honey bear, tapir, senyulong crocodile, softshell turtle and many species of birds.  The area is home to 189 recorded plant species spanning 113 families and 59 genera. Some of them are endangered such as medang lendir, mersawa, meranti bunga, meranti bakau and  resak and protected speciest in Appendics II CITES such as ramin. 

The core area of GSK-BR is a realm defined by the lush tropical peat swamp forest and the enchanting presence of a natural “tasik” or small lake. This characteristic landscape signals the abundance of peat domes, serving as crucial ecological balancers, particularly in maintaining the delicate water balance. Moreover, this region boasts remarkable biodiversity, paving the way for its transformation into a vibrant and competitive ecotourism destination. Beyond that, it holds the promise of contributing to economically sustainable development while also standing as an ideal field laboratory for groundbreaking peatland research.

Population Census results, observe a substantial presence of 120,904 residents spanning two sub-districts in Siak Regency, specifically Sungai Mandau and Bunga Raya, with a combined population of 35,905. In Bengkalis Regency, this growth extends across four sub-districts — Bukit Batu (21,771), Bandar Laksana (15,042), Talang Mandau (24,000), and Siak Kecil (24,186), resulting in a total of 84,999 residents. This rapid demographic expansion raises pertinent considerations for the sustainable development and conservation efforts within the GSK-BR area.

The swift increase in population in this region is attributed to the prevalence of industrial plantation forest development and palm oil industry activities within the buffer zone and transition areas. Numerous individuals from different provinces or regencies have migrated to this area, seeking employment opportunities as workers and laborers engaged in oil palm conversion, industrial forest plantation development, peatland agricultural initiatives, and other cultivated plant development projects. The Biosphere is facing problems such as illegal logging, encroachment, poaching, weak coordination of land stakeholders, no engine entity that led conservation of land stakeholders”. 

ITTO Project PD 712/13 Rev.3 (F). The Enhancing the implementation of landscape management of Giam Siak Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve is working to narrow  conservation approaches. Agency for Standardization of Environment and Forestry Instruments – ASEFI presented the work of ASEFI in enhancing the implementation of landscape management of Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve.  

How to overcome the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve problems and Challenges also achieving well biosphere reserve function and Lima Action Plan purpose? The working intervenes to address issues on contribution to develop and putting standard on the policy instrument, sustainability and law enforcement, community welfare development especially for health and education, institutional strengthening and empowerment, and prominent matter is integration cross sector management. The ITTO Project PD 712/13 come to support biosphere reserve landscape management can run well.

During the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Bio Reserve session, participants raised issues on how to enhance the livelihood of local community because there are so many previous project activities in the project site. They also asked the approach to improve collaboration between the 37 stakeholders that already mapped by the Project. ITTO Project PD 712/13 has a series of discussion with local community to identify the best type of income generating activities based on potential resources and market demand. ITTO project also develop several standards on landscape management, SOP, and funding mechanism to revitalize the coordinating body to manage the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve sustainably.

Protecting Bioreserves in Indonesia

“The 15th SeaBRnet has strengthen regional collaborative network to contribute more to addressing current global environmental issues, the “Triple Planetary Crisis,” which encompasses climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss”, said Mr. Haliana, the Regent of Wakatobi District in his opening remark. Furthermore, this meeting provides a platform for sharing experiences, best practices, and innovative approaches that enhance the well-being of communities while safeguarding the ecological integrity of these vital areas

During the opening session, Ms. Maki Katsuno-Kayashikawa, Director of UNESCO Jakarta said that “Together, we will explore strategies to harmonize conservation efforts with socio-economic development, leverage technology and traditional knowledge for ecosystem management, and empower local communities as champions of biodiversity conservation and utilization”.

On the meantime, in her video message, Dr. Itje Chodijah, Chairperson of the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO said that “Indonesia boasts an impressive network of 20 Biosphere Reserves, spanning approximately 30 million hectares and teeming with diverse ecosystems. she expect that the outcomes of the 15th SeaBRnet will not only lay the groundwork for effective regional collaboration but also contribute to address evaluation the current strategy and develop a new ten-year strategy”.

She also emphasised the biosphere reserves have evolved beyond their roles, not only the conservation of biological and cultural diversity to include innovative approaches to sustainable management, also approaches encompass tourism and community engagement, particularly focusing on women and youth, climate resilience, as well as the support for research, monitoring, education, and training.

On the session of Introduction to country reports Lima Action Plan 2016-2025 by Mr. Ryuichi Fukuhara from SeaBRnet Secretariat. He affirmed that “Community engangement, linking activities with relevant SDGs indicator, integration of sustainable practices must be exist on biosphere Reserve management”.

Lima Action Plan 2016 – 2025 is a strategic document designed to guide biosphere reserve activities, aiming to achieve sustainable development through conservation and responsible use of biosphere reserve. The document has focus areas on ecosystem restoration, community engagement, and integrating biosphere reserves into local regional, and global development plans.

The 15th SeaBRNet consisted of plenary sessions, group discussions and field visits to demonstrate the success of the initiatives implemented in the Wakatobi Biosphere Reserve. This meeting was held to formulate implementation report of SeaBRNet member states for the Lima Action Plan 2016-2025, also take steps to shaping and discuss about the 35th ICC MAB-UNESCO meeting in Paris 2024 – 3 (three) Indonesia biosphere reserve have been designated, and the 5th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Hangzhou 2025 – 2 (two) Indonesia Biosphere Reserve nominated:  Palung Mendawak – West Kalimantan and Raja Ampat – West Papua

Attended at the meeting some key representatives – there were MAB National Committees in Southeast Asia, BR Managers in Southeast Asia, UNESCO field offices in Southeast Asia, Key MAB stakeholders, including representatives of the private sectors, Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT).

Penulis: Abiyyu M. Haris, Uus Danu Kusumah, Tian Partiani

Editor: Yayuk Siswiyanti

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