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A Cruise Ship Pier for Komodo?

Editorial: Indonesian Culture and Tourism Minister's Desire to Build Cruise Ship Pier at Komodo National Park Must be Based on a Careful Review of Park's Carrying Capacity.

(1/3/2011) Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, is aggressively seeking funding from the Central Government for the construction of a cruise ship pier at the Komodo National Park capable, according to the National News Agency Antara, of accommodating "large cruise ships."

Minister Wacik has announced that he will coordinate with the Minister of Transportation that the budget for the proposed docking pier is included in the 2011 State budget, eliminating, when completed, the need to use small tenders for shuttling passengers to and from the shore from the increasing number of large cruise calls on the Komodo National Park.

And, indeed, Komodo is experiencing a booming popularity. In 2008, a total of 21,726 visitors came to Komodo, a number that has virtually doubled in 2010 with 42,000 visitors recorded through end-November. Helping to bring these visitors to Komodo were 220 ship calls, including visits by 40 cruise liners.

While the Minister's desire to facilitate tourism and Komodo's growing reputation as a natural heritage site is laudable, we fear that plans for a passenger pier are being made without proper consideration of environmental impact and the carrying capacity of the Park.

We believe Komodo has much to learn from Ecuador and its management of the Galapagos National Park where careful advance study and continuing monitoring have created strict limits on the number of visitors allowed in the various parts of the Galapagos marine and island reserve.

Also worth emulating is the participatory management system in place at Galapagos that includes the park's management, members of the local community and environmental experts - a system the insures decisions affecting the future of the park receive both objective, careful and transparent consideration.

Whether or not building a cruise pier at Komodo is a good idea remains be determined. How it is determined, however, must not be based solely on the size of the cruise ships knocking on Komodo's door or a desire to increase inbound tourist counts at any cost.

Along the way, careful calculations on the effect of potentially thousands of cruise passengers disgorged on a single day unto unpaved wooded paths, streaming past the free-roaming wild populations of Komodos, Timur deer, wild boars, wild horses, water buffaloes, crab-eating macaques, palm civets, bats, mice and endemic rats that make their home in the Park. Equally precious and no less threatened by any uncontrolled onslaught of tourists are the islands unique collection of bird-life that include Lesser Sulphur-crested cockatoos, Noisy friar-birds, Orange - footed Scrub Fowl, Wallacean Drongo, Green Jungle Fowl, Green Imperial Pigeon, Black-napped Oriole, Collared Kingfishers, Great-billed heron, and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Good development and tourism planning is always preceded by meticulous planning that, first and foremost, preserves the existing ecosystem without compromise to commercial and other short-term considerations.

When it comes to sustainable tourism there is no peer to careful planning.

And, if need be, there is no pier, as well.