Rubbish in Paradise...
Bukit Lawang is widely considered one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia. Situated on the very edge of the Leuser ecosystem, one of the most diverse and endangered ecosystems in the world.
Spreading from Northern Aceh and throughout North Sumatra. At approximately 6.5 million acres of tropical rainforest, it is a hotspot plant and animal biodiversity. Home to over 105 different species of mammal, approximately 382 bird species and over 95 reptile and amphibian species (RAN, 2019) and the last place on Earth where one can find Rhino’s, Tigers, Elephants, Bears & Orangutans living together in the wild. So its no wonder that tourist from all around the world flock to Bukit Lawang to experience these wonders of natural beauty first hand. This ecosystem however is under constant threat from a range of human impacts, including Palm Oil development, Illegal deforestation, unsustainable and irresponsible Trekking practices, human / animal conflicts and something that is often overlooked by local organisations, NGOs and community members alike… waste disposal?
That’s right, in Bukit Lawang, like many rural communities across Sumatra, there is little or no waste disposal infrastructure, and that which does exist is reserved for the wealthy few who can afford to pay someone to pick it up and take it somewhere out of sight to either burn it or bury it. With no money to pay for waste disposal and no infrastructure in place from the government or other organisations, people are forced to dump their waste into the rivers and canals of Bukit Lawang or to burn it, often releasing CO2 and other harmful gasses into the air.
Its not all doom and gloom however! On the 1st of February 2020 the Bukit Lawang Trust teamed up with Project Wings, an INGO from Germany who for the past four years has been dedicated to promoting sustainable practice and reusable initiatives throughout North Sumatra, and Bukit Lawang Care, a local NGO founded and run by community members dedicated to sustainable living and the preservation and conservation of the Leuser ecosystem. The 1st of February saw 250 local community members and tourists alike join together in a Clean up Initiative that aimed to tackle the growing waste issue, as well as raising awareness amongst the younger generations, with 3 schools from the local town of Bohorok invited to join in the initiative. Here, the effort to tackle the growing single use plastic waste and fly tipping of clothes food stuffs and a wide range of products is especially urgent, as these products very quickly end up in the waterways and irrigation canals, which are also used by the local people for washing and cleaning, as well as for drinking water.
All in all the day was a huge success with almost 100 bags of rubbish collected, a total of 2.4 Tonnes taken from the waterways and main roads of the three local villages Bukit Lawang, Perumahan and Gotong Royong.
Although days like these make a large impact in the fight against the growing waste problem here in Bukit Lawang, sadly it is not enough to solve the problem. With an estimated 100 million animals a year being killed by plastic waste in waterways rivers, and oceans alone (The Asian Post, 2018) it will take government intervention and collaboration with NGOs to establish the necessary infrastructure to eradicate waste altogether. Every week both the Bukit Lawang Trust, and Bukit Lawang Care carry out clean ups in and around Bukit Lawang, but without an infrastructure to support these endeavours it is difficult to keep up with the speed at which rubbish is being dumped.
If you are interested in any of the issues raised here, check out our programmes on the programmes tab above, or check out the phenomenal work that Project Wings and Bukit Lawang Care are doing on a daily basis out here in Sumatra.
Head of Conservation and Manager