Protecting Paradise
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Renjani Puspo Sari Read : 1639 Date : Monday, June 09, 2014 - 07:16:12

    Ahmad Subaidi

    Bali is a tourist paradise but it is being ruined by runaway development degrading its natural environment. Thus, others are looking to ensure that future developments in the region can be spared from the same fate. One group with a proposed solution is PT Eco Regions Indonesia (ERI), a joint venture between the Indonesian and Swedish governments. It is developing two massive areas in Lombok and Sumbawa. ERI would like to create environmentally friendly developments in both areas, setting a new benchmark for modern yet sustainable tourism that is also integrated with the surrounding communities.

    The first is at a 3,200 ha site in Tanjung Ringgit, East Lombok and the second is at a 20,000 ha site covering eight islands in northwestern Sumbawa. Last January, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Pangestu and Sweden’s ambassador Ewa Polano attended the groundbreaking at Tanjung Ringgit’s Pink Beach. Founder and chief executive of ERI John Higson spoke to Forbes Indonesia about his vision for these projects during a visit to Jakarta.

    What makes Eco Regions different from other eco-friendly projects?

    This is an economic, environmental and social project on a very large scale. It has sustainable rules and regulations while also focusing on cooperation with the local communities. The idea is basically to create a dream in common. For example, we conduct direct joint ventures with local villages for the creation of sustainable goods and services that rely upon local fisheries, agriculture and forestry. We build villages with sustainable designs such as green roofing regulations, waste control and local energy sources. A small green tax is placed upon on goods and services, the proceeds of which will be used to fund education in the surrounding area.

    We have also invited a whole range of green investors to participate in the construction and running of these projects. These include NGOs that specialize in protecting coral reefs and forests. So, many partnerships will follow that will bring in revenue, both to the local government and local communities.

    Why did you choose Lombok and Sumbawa?

    We always thought Lombok was much like how Bali was 30 or 40 years ago. It’s beautiful and the nature is magical but Bali now faces a number of challenging environmental problems. So, we see Lombok as a fantastic destination that should be protected at all costs with the cooperation of local communities. Lombok and Sumbawa are also designated by the government as food development and tourism destinations. In these destinations, you get everything within just a short distance of each other—the highest peak of the Rinjani mountain, forests and beaches, all very close to Bali. So, these islands are absolutely perfect.

    What is the estimated investment value for this project?

    It’s about an $800 million investment over a 13-year period for this project. This figure could change depending on how much we decide to develop the area. Our own development area in Tanjung Ringgit, for example, is about 370 ha but sits alongside about 2,800 ha of the Eco Region area that will be a forest conservation area. All of the investments are not just coming from our company but also from a host of partners.