Konradus Epa, Jakarta – The United Nations' Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on the Indonesian government to stop all tourism infrastructure construction projects in Komodo National Park in Catholic-majority East Nusa Tenggara province.
The call came in a letter at the end of the 44th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee (WHC) from July 16-31.
"The Indonesian government needs to temporarily halt tourism infrastructure projects in the protected Komodo habitat, which is considered to have outstanding universal value," the WHC said.
It called on the Indonesian government to submit a revised environmental impact assessment that will be reviewed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Indonesia is building tourist facilities dubbed "Jurassic Park" on Rinca island, one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered Komodo dragon.
There are estimated to be about 3,000 Komodo dragons in the national park, according to government figures.
It's a win against the destruction of a conservation area and World Heritage Site by the current regime's tourism development
Last year a picture showing a Komodo dragon coming face to face with a truck triggered protests against the plan to attract high-end tourists.
Cypri Jehan Paju Dale, a researcher and environmentalist at Kyoto University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies, called the WHC's move "a massive achievement for conservation and tourism."
"It's a win against the destruction of a conservation area and World Heritage Site by the current regime's tourism development," news portal Tempo quoted him as saying on Aug. 1.
He said the Indonesian government should no longer find itself at loggerheads with East Nusa Tenggara residents and international civil society groups as President Joko Widodo now faces resistance from the international community and organizations.
Father Marten Jenarut, chairman of Ruteng Diocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, welcomed the WHC's call.
"Infrastructure construction in Komodo National Park can be categorized as an activity which has the potential to change local natural conditions and wreak environmental destruction," Father Jenarut told UCA News.
The Komodo park isn't an ordinary area but a special place and a safe haven for the dragons, he said.
Responding to UNESCO, a spokesman for Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Jodi Mahardi said the appeal is based on reports of a third party.
"Currently, the government will focus on increasing local people's welfare and maintaining the environment," he said.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno defended the projects, saying the government would prioritize the ecosystem of the Komodo dragons.
"The goal is a Komodo National Park that is managed with utmost care without harming biodiversity and ecosystems there," he told an online press conference on Aug. 2.