Construction will continue on a tourism project in Indonesia that has drawn both official and unofficial comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, the southeast Asian country’s tourism ministry said on Thursday.
The announcement comes even as Unesco warned against the potential negative environmental impact of the as-yet officially unnamed project, and called for a fresh environmental impact assessment to be undertaken.
Construction for the tourism project – centred around the Komodo National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site – began last year, even as locals and environmental activists raised concerns.
The park is home to and named after the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, a species distinguished not just by its 10-foot-long size but also razor-sharp teeth and the strength to hunt the region’s water buffalo for food.
The 3,000-strong lizard population has inhabited three Indonesian islands for millions of years, according to estimates. This is where a host of tourism construction projects have been taking place.
Activists claim the dragons have never been used to the large-scale construction activities and will be disturbed by the project.
Locals, who take pride in coexisting with the large lizards, said they are concerned the government is not paying attention to the fact that the lizards will not get accustomed to the reduced habitat space they will have once the projects are complete.
“We urge the government to develop tourism that’s based on the people. There are people living there,” Rima Melani Bilaut of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), an environmental group, was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
The Indonesian government, however, said the project will change the perception of how national parks are seen around the world and is being carried out carefully.
“The construction is being done very carefully – we haven’t even cut down a single tree,” Kita Awang Nistyantara, the head of the Komodo National Park, told news channel Al Jazeera last year.
Officials from Unesco told a World Heritage Committee conference last month that a new environmental impact assessment will be needed to assess alleged illegal fishing and the fragile habitat of the Komodo dragons, according to Reuters.
“This project will proceed... it’s been proven to have no impact,” Inung Wiratno, a senior official at Indonesia’s environment ministry, told the news agency on Thursday.
It is also unclear exactly what the project will entail. It is reportedly focused around Rinca island, that has the second-largest Komodo dragon population by some accounts. The project, according to government authorities last year, is going to be a “premium tourism spot”.
An artist’s impression video of the project went viral last year. It showed what the government planned the final project to look like, and was set to the theme of Hollywood’s Jurassic Park science fiction film franchise.
In December last year, not long after construction had begun, a worker was reportedly attacked during the construction of a £4.8 million resort at Rinca.
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