September 5, 2018

Batang Toru hydroelectric project subject to continuous monitoring

( - The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has confirmed the need for continuous monitoring to measure the impact level of the ongoing development of hydroelectric power project on North Sumatra's Batang Toru Ecosystem, home to the critically-endangered Tapanuli orangutan

According to the ministry, the principal purpose of this continuous monitoring, which involves multi-stakeholders, is to ensure that efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of the hydroelectric power project's operations are consistently maintained, especially with regard to the habitat of the area's 800 remaining Tapanuli orangutans

This confirmation was conveyed by the Ministry's Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation Director General Wiratno to (Sep 4) during a technical discussion on conservation and development challenges in the Batang Toru Ecosystem held at the ministry building.

“Unless the Batang Toru Ecosystem is protected, the hydroelectric power project is not going to go forward as expected by the company,” the director general explained. 

“This is because the operations involved are very dependent on the area’s water catchment level, which in turn is ecologically dependent on the protection of the Batang Toru Ecosystem,” he added.

The photo below, taken from a document belonging to PT NSHE - the company carrying out the Batang Toru hydroelectric power project - shows how the company needs the stability of water catchment areas originating from the Batang Toru Ecosystem. 

The following photo, meanwhile, comes from another document in which PT NSHE gives an assurance that it will maintain the area’s corridors, specifically for the Tapanuli orangutan.

Wiratno stressed that continuous monitoring is essential to optimize efforts focused on protecting the Batang Toru Ecosystem, and in particular the Tapanuli orangutan. These efforts, he added, are based on ongoing evidence, as opposed to mere predictions.

“The best possible way for us to work on this matter is to use the available evidence so that the hydroelectric power project underway goes hand-in-hand with ongoing efforts to protect the Batang Toru ecosystem,” he emphasized.

The director general also pointed out that relevant data and information have been compiled in a measured manner, including ongoing evidence on the ground level, concerning the project's impact on the Tapanuli orangutans, their corridors, and the Batang Toru Ecosystem as a whole.

Loud voices and protests about the hydroelectric power project are continuing to be heard from global stakeholders, scientists and environmental NGOs. The rejection of the project by these parties stems from deep concerns that it will lead to the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan.

Director General Wiratno elaborated further, saying “However, at this stage, we are continuing to monitor ongoing evidence on the ground as well as spatial evidence, thus enabling us to continue providing relevant interventions from time to time according to the level of authority we have."