Belitung is a small archipelago situated on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It comprises one main island and several small islands, and is part of Bangka Belitung Islands Province. Due to its rich deposits of tin, Belitung experienced the development of a massive tin mining business that started in the colonial period around the 1850s. The expansion of mining activities on the island led to rapid environmental degradation, eventually damaging 80% of the mangrove forest in Selat Nasik Coast, and producing negative impacts on the livelihoods of the local fisher folks.
The Belitung Coastal Community Group (BCCG) was established in 1998 with the mission to combat the environmental threats caused by mining activities and to implement sustainable coastal ecosystem management. In particular, BCCG aims to rehabilitate, protect and manage marine and coastal resources, while also reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of the communities on Belitung Island.
Since 2008, the UNDP implemented GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) in Indonesia has worked closely with the Belitung Coastal Community Group – BCCG (Kelompok Pemuda Lingkungan Belitung – or KPLB in Bahasa Indonesia), to implement an innovative island conservation model in Tanjung Binga, Belitung Island and Kepayang Island.
At the outset, the project aimed at creating a model for the sustainable management of coral reef ecosystems that would enable the rehabilitation and protection of key natural resources while also reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of the community in Belitung Island. To achieve this objective, BCCG organized activities to raise awareness in the community about the threats faced by coral reef ecosystems, started a coral reef transplantation programme to improve the quality and variety of coral reef, and conducted participatory education and training in order to implement effective and sustainable coral reef management. BCCG also created a network to support the work of fishers and other key stakeholders engaged in conservation activities. To improve livelihoods and reduce the pressure on the ecosystems, the group also initiated sustainable ornamental fishery and ecotourism activities. This project improved the coral ecosystem, engaged the community in conservation activities and increased the income and quality of life of the local population.
In 2011 in recognition of the good results achieved by the Belitung project, the Government of Indonesia allowed BCCG to lead a pilot project to develop Kepayang Island as a conservation site using ecotourism. To achieve this goal, BCCG created three conservation programs:
1. the Kepayang Island Conservation Center for training, education and turtle conservation;
2. the Mendanau Mangrove Conservation Center to protect the tropical forest and mangroves; and
3. the Batu Mentas Nature Reserve and Tarsius Sanctuary that aims to protect the tarsius monkey
The community was directly involved in running most ecotourism activities including mangrove and fishing tours, scuba diving, and tarsius expeditions, among others, to improve the livelihoods of the local population and reduce the pressure on the ecosystems.
The project conservation activities have produced significant results on the overall ecosystems of the islands. The coral conservation proramme reduced the damage to the ecosystem caused by potassium, bombing, and the use of trawls for fishing. The turtle protection programme reduced the number of turtle egg poachers, protecting natural nesting sites, and resulting in the release of more than 12,000 baby turtles in the past three years. To protect the rainforest and mangroves, the group has planted more than 45,000 mangrove trees and oversees community nurseries that cultivate 20,000 seedlings.
Throughout the years, BCCG has made efforts to scale up the project at many levels by engaging the local government and mobilizing more stakeholders for further support. The programme in Tanjung Binga funded by SGP was adopted as a local programme and included in the Strategic Development Plan (Renstra) of the district and became a prominent part of the annual Sail Indonesia agenda.
In addition to developing an innovative island conservation model that has been used as a model for other islands; the project was instrumental for the creation of a regional marine conservation plan that includes specific conservation areas such as no-take and sustainable fishing zones. Since 2006, BCCG has requested the local government bodies and the Ministry of Marine Fisheries to declare Tanjung Binga as a Coastal and Small Islands Conservation Zone (KKP3K). This continuous effort took years and involved multiple stakeholders until the resolution was finally adopted on April 1st, 2011 during the celebration of National Coral Day that took place in Belitung
The area designated for the establishment of the Coastal and Small Islands Conservation Zone consists of:
1. Main Zone (Lengkuas, Piling, and Pelma Islands): the islands, coastal, and marine area is considered as protected area due to its ecological, economical, and social conditions
2. Sustainable Fisheries Zone (islands and sea areas in Sijuk sub-district and Selat Nasik sub-district): an open area for fishing under certain regulations
3. Utilization Zone: the buffer zone between the previous two zones
At present, BCCG continues to facilitate the process at the national level in order to strengthen the regulations, and is working with the government towards the development of a GEF medium or full size project to continue to build on these efforts. The government is also in the process of declaring a KKP3K Conservation Zone in Selat Nasik.
With this formal regulation, the earlier conservation status of the areas has been strengthened and protected against future ecological challenges arising from tin mining and its environmentally destructive mining ships. Furthermore, the project has become a learning site and is visited by local governments as well as universities such as the Bogor Agricultural University, Padjadjaran University, Indonesia University of Education, Islamic University of Indonesia and Bina Nusantara University.
BCCG received the Coastal Award, a prestigious biennial award presented by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in Indonesia in collaboration with the Association of Indonesian Coastal Experts, in 2012 to honor their remarkable efforts in developing Kepayang Island as a conservation site and was invited to share their experience during the International Seminar on Marine Tourism in 2011 in Belitung. In 2015, BCCG also received the prestigious Equator Prize and shared their experience at the UNFCCC Climate change Conference of the Parties in Paris.
This story was orginally published in "Scaling up Community Actions for International Waters Management" in 2016.