Monday, October 21, 2013

Mining activities hurting Bangka's tourism

There is a growing view that rampant use of unconventional mining methods and the operation of tin dredging ships at Bangka Island`s tourism sites must be restricted, or they will hamper tourism in the region.

Tin mining activities will reduce the number of tourists heading to the island, said Yuna Ekowati Lukman, spokesperson for the Bangka-Belitung (Babel) branch of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies Association (Asita), in the provincial city of Pangkalpinang on Monday.

"The number of tourists coming to Bangka Island is continuing to decrease because of the increase in tin mining activities on the land and off shore," explained Yuna. 

According to her, the presence of tin dredging ships and use of unconventional mining methods on the land and away from the shoreline has had a negative impact on the development of marine tourism on the island.

The landscape in many parts of Bangka Island can now be best described as a barren wasteland due to unchecked mining of tin, which involves drilling deep, gaping holes into the soil.

Vast tracts of land on the island are now pockmarked with craters filled with highly acidic bluish-green water.

The scale of destruction from unconventional tin mining has reached such a level that Bangka Island`s natural beauty - one of its main attractions - will soon be a thing of the past, if nothing is done to stop or control the environmentally damaging tin mining activities.

"We hope the regional government will soon establish (separate) mining and tourism zones so that they can run in tandem and not inflict a loss on the other party," stated Yuna.

She noted that tin mining activities on tourism sites will lead to losses for the local government as the number of tourists visiting the island will continue to decline. 

"Besides, it has become difficult for us to the sell the tourism potential (of the island) at national and international levels because the mining activities have destroyed the marine tourism environment," she added.

In view of this, she urged the local government to restrict unconventional mining and operation of tin dredging ships at the tourism sites.

Yuna pointed out that both Bangka and Belitung islands in Babel province have a great potential for marine tourism, with 1,200 kilometers of shoreline and several attractive beaches such as Pasir Padi, Matras, Tanjung Pesona, and Parai Tenggiri on Bangka Island; and, Tanjung Pendam, Kelayang, Tinggi, and Punai on Belitung Island. 

Therefore, she said, Asita has turned to the media to help sell the region's tourists attractions.

"The media plays a very important role (in promoting tourism) and therefore, Asita has invited it to stand together, arm-in-arm, and promote regional tourist attractions," Yuna explained.

The mass media can help boost tourism and bring about an increase in the number of tourists visiting Babel, she added.

"The media can present news stories about tourism in an interesting way to attract both domestic and foreign tourists to visit Babel province," Yuna observed. Tourism is the leading alternative to the mining industry in Bangka-Belitung province and must be promoted intensively, she stated. 

Meanwhile, Bangka-Belitung Tribal Community Organization Chairman Husain Karim said he is strongly opposed to tin mining activities in coastal areas as they are detrimental to local fishermen and tourism.

"The unconventional tin mining and operation of tin dredging ships in fishing areas and tourist sites has a negative impact on the coastal community, particularly fishermen, and tourism development," Karim said in Pangkalpinang recently.

According to him, offshore tin ore mining on Bangka and Belitung islands has been detrimental to the local fishermen as their catch continues to decline.

"The presence of tin dredging ships and mining activities has become an issue between the community and the local government because it disturbs regional development and welfare of fishermen," he noted.

The Bangka district`s Culture and Tourism Office (Disbudpar) has already asked the relevant local authorities to ban tin dredging ships and unconventional tin mining as it will negatively impact tourism on the island.

"Tin ore mining activity, including the operation of tin dredging ships, in a number of important tourism areas in Bangka will eventually destroy the island`s tourism," said Disbudpar spokesman Asep Setiawan.

According to him, tourism and marine fisheries will be the district`s mainstay after the reserves of tin are exhausted. Therefore, all parties must help sustain the activities to ensure the survival of the local community, he added.

While Indonesia has issued new guidelines aimed at curbing illegal mining, authorities in Bangka are keen to see locals shift to other sectors such as trade, fishing, and tourism.

But, Asep Setiawan noted, the new guidelines seem to have gone unnoticed.

"The binding regulation banning tin mining activities at a distance of 4 miles from the shore should have been obeyed, but in reality it was ignored," Asep observed.

At present, mining activities are being conducted 20 meters to 50 meters away from the coastline, but nothing is done about it, he added.

Asep said flouting the regulation has benefited only the mining sector and proved extremely detrimental to fishing communities and tourist operators.

"Therefore, the policy on tin mining exploitation should be reviewed because the reality in the field reveals that it is only beneficial to collectors, brokers, and large investors, while the unconventional miners remain impoverished," Asep said.

According to him, the presence of tin dredging ships and unconventional miners near coastal areas in Bangka Island will affect the area's natural beauty and marine ecosystem.

"Private flights which have been operational for several decades to tourist sites such as Uber Bay and the beaches of Parai, Tanjung Pesona, Pasir Padi and others must not be disturbed by mining activities, in order to maintain tourism assets," Asep said.

He stated the smoke and noise generated by the dredging ships have become a deterrent to tourist operators on Bangka Island.

As unconventional tin mining destroys the natural beauty of the island and the marine ecosystem, it is feared investors will leave Bangka and invest in tourism development elsewhere, Asep added.

Bangka Island is blessed with marine and historic attractions.

With lush tropical forests, crystal clear sea, and white sandy beaches, Bangka Island can prove another tourism destination in Indonesia, if tin mining there is restricted. (Antara)

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