Indonesia has shrugged off environmental impact concerns by the United Nations and is pushing ahead with construction of Komodo National Park, a tourist spot dedicated to the large lizards that some have labeled “Jurassic Park.”
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told a World Heritage Committee conference last month that the Indonesian government needed to provide an updated economic impact assessment for Komodo National Park, a tourism spot under construction on the home island of the large Komodo dragon.
“This project will proceed… it’s been proven to have no impact,” Inung Wiratno, who is director general of nature conservation and ecosystems at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, told Reuters on Thursday. However, he added that a new impact assessment was in the works and would be delivered next month.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno told reporters Monday he was requesting a meeting with UNESCO to review their concerns “in detail and discuss it line-by-line.”
The project began last year, but attracted international ire after images of Komodo dragons, some of the world’s largest monitor lizards that can reach 10 feet long, wandering among construction equipment began circulating on social media.
Just 3,000 of the huge lizards are left, isolated on a handful of small islands in southern Indonesia. The unique creatures live for up to 30 years, hunt in groups and sport a venomous bite. They once occupied a much wider range, but have been all but driven from the large Flores Island to the east of their current range.
The park itself was actually established in 1980 to protect the dragons. However, last year, the government began building what it described as a “premium tourism spot” centered on Rinca, one of the three main islands in the park. Judging by a demonstration video presented last year, it includes an area-type area around which spectators would be able to sit and see the large lizards up-close.
Tolong! Selamatkan Taman Nasional Komodo, Selamatkan Pariwisata Kita.
Ini video desain Bangunan Wisata Jurassic yg sdg dibangun di P Rinca skrg. (Perhatikan jg soudtrack-nya).
Apakah kita bisa dorong revisi desain ini, minimal bagian tengah yg mengurung Komodo itu? pic.twitter.com/NtOn5zmFM5
— Kawan Baik Komodo (@KawanBaikKomodo) October 10, 2020
“We want to go into the premium, world-class tourism category,” Wiratno told Al Jazeera in November 2020. “The Komodo dragon is like the panda – highly respected – and this is the only location in the world that has them.”
Aside from being a tropical theme park featuring huge lizards, the park earned the unofficial moniker of “Jurassic Park” because the demo video featured a song from the soundtrack of the 1993 film about a dinosaur theme park off the coast of Central America.
The government’s vagueness about the project has aroused concerns about environmental impact, as well as illegal fishing in the area.
Umbu Wulang, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) of East Nusa Tenggara province, told the Indonesian outlet Tempo on Tuesday that the government should prioritize green development and protect the island’s ecosystem.
“We ask the government to respect UNESCO’s decision, admit mistakes in the development of large-scale investor-based tourism projects, and revoke all permits for large-scale natural tourism projects in Komodo National Park,” he said.
On the other hand, at least Jakarta isn’t talking about a velociraptor enclosure on the island.