Jakarta – The current construction project on Rinca Island, East Nusa Tenggara, will not put the Komodo dragon population at risk, the Environment and Forestry Ministry has stated following concerns over the safety of the endangered species amid tourism projects on the island.
A photo posted on Instagram account @gregoriusafioma on Saturday capturing a Komodo dragon facing a project truck on Rincah Island recently went viral and raised public concerns for the survival of Komodo dragons in the area.
"The Komodo dragon population remains stable at the Loh Buaya tourist location. If we control it properly and minimize contact with the animals, tourism activities will not endanger the population," ministry spokesperson Nunu Anugrah said in a press statement on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.
Rinca Island is among the three largest Islands along with Komodo and Padar Island that make up the world-renowned Komodo National Park.
Nunu said the estimated number of Komodo dragons in Loh Buaya was currently around 66, of which 15 were often roaming around the tourism project development area in the resort. Loh Buaya is the main habitat of the protected animal on Rinca Island, which can be reached with a two-hour boat ride from Labuan Bajo.
Nunu assured that project workers were being careful when using heavy equipment that could not be replaced by human labor at the construction site, such as trucks and excavators.
During the construction, Nunu said, the government had deployed five to 10 rangers to monitor the Komodo dragons around the site, including under buildings and vehicles carrying materials.
The tourism development project has reached 30 percent and is predicted to be completed in June 2021.
In order to speed up the construction process, the government is temporarily closing the Loh Buaya resort to tourists from Monday until the end of June next year.
A number of civil society groups, including the West Manggarai Tourism Rescue Society Forum (Formapp Mabar) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), have criticized the development project.
Walhi director in NTT Umbu Wulang Tanaamahu Paranggi argued that the development of the Labuan Bajo National Strategic Tourism Area (KSPN), including on Rinca Island, would have a serious impact on the environment and surrounding communities.
Umbu said infrastructure development in the area could disrupt natural biodiversity, bringing changes in landscape and contamination of groundwater. (syk)