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Lake Toba shall be nominated as a UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK

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In September and October 2015 the group PLOt (Pusat Latihan Opera Batak) from Siantar, North-Sumatra/Indonesia supported the initiative of the German-Indonesian Society (DIG), Cologne, WATER IS LFE / WASSER IST LEBEN with performances of the play WOMEN AT LAKE'S EDGE by Lena Simanjuntak-Mertes. Performances in the classical style of the "Opera Batak" were held in Bad Neuenahr, Cologne, Berlin and Stuttgart, in which the negative environmental impact upon the biotope Lake Toba and the population living in the area was the main topic.

In this traditional theatrical play the critical condition of Lake Toba in North-Sumatra is described. The world’s largest volcanic crater lake is currently at risk, because environmental negligence as well as economic and political developments that have gone awry had a negative impact upon the means of subsistence.

During additional discussions this Lake Toba Declaration was formulated. It intends to address those stakeholders in positions of responsibility at the local level as well as institutions at a superior echelon. Lake Toba shall be nominated as a UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK.

With your signature under the petition you support this call, so that persons holding positions of responsibility in politics as well as civil society may act in a determined and responsibly way for a sustainable future of Lake Toba:




Lake Toba Declaration

Cologne, September 25th, 2015

In connection with the WATER IS LIFE Initiative, the Opera Batak WOMAN AT LAKE’S EDGE has addressed problems of an inadequate and unsustainable water supply at Lake Toba in North-Sumatra / Indonesia. Inspired by performances of Opera Batak by PLOt (Pusat Latihan Opera Batak) from Siantar the intercultural dialogue has been substantiated. Issues of environmental protection, economic and ecological consequences as well as the important role of women as “guardians of life” are central elements of the debate on water as a human right.

Recent developments of continuous depletion and pollution of Lake Toba and its related ecosystem, and its support for the well-being of its residents, have put it at risk. Without urgent action, the nature of our existence is under threat not only with regard to water, but also to food, biodiversity and other important resources.

The current challenge is to safeguard Indonesia’s natural and cultural (Batak) heritage to ensure the well-being of its people while alleviating poverty, reducing conflict over resources, and supporting humanity and the local ecosystem.

Lake Toba stands against the exploitation of natural resources and the negation of traditional communities and their rights all over Indonesia. Initiating a joint attempt for the lake’s salvation can be the initial spark for solving similar problems throughout the Archipelago.

Sustainability and the safeguarding of biological and cultural diversity can and must become the recognized foundation of the Indonesian nation and the fabric of its society.

Women play a crucial role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water, as formulated in the Dublin Principle in 1992 at the International Conference on Water and the Environment (ICWE).

Representatives of Lake Toba and the German-Indonesian Society created the event “Water as a human right” to exhibit the natural and cultural heritage that is at stake, and to discuss with the participants the challenges that must be overcome to preserve this legacy.

In recent years we have seen the emergence of various threats to Lake Toba’s environment with serious effects on the lives of the (Batak) people:


Water pollution through release of nutrients, e.g. excessive fish fodder by fishing companies and, as a paradoxical consequence, loss of fish (production)

Deforestation and illegal logging lead to a loss of biodiversity and increased erosion, with negative effects on local farming

Water shortage in dry seasons

Water pollution through insufficient treatment of industrial and municipal wastewater.


These developments require new perceptions and approaches to responsibilities and the accountability of political and societal actors at all levels to preserve Lake Toba, its water resources and related ecosystems, to safeguard its people and traditions.


Our key recommendations and requests include:

  • In July 2010, Indonesia acknowledged water as a human right in the UN General Assembly Resolution. The Indonesian government has to realize and put this right into effect by implementing and enforcing the relevant legislation.
  • Fundamental reorientation of Indonesia’s national and Sumatra’s local governance institutions is required to initiate a process of sustainable resource management at Lake Toba. National and local governments must take action to support not only institutions and approaches for safeguarding this unique ecosystem and its people, but also governmental and non-governmental initiatives that engage in Lake Toba’s preservation.
  • All necessary efforts by the government of the Republic of Indonesia to fulfill the UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK requirements to ensure a sustainable development of the Lake Toba region. This includes the consideration of synergies and trade-offs between food security, water use, energy production, safeguarding of biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable tourism and consumption, and ensuring the people’s livelihood. All people involved and affected (politicians, NGOs, businesses and residents) should be involved in the development of concrete goals and measures.
  • Recognition of the monetary and non-monetary values of public goods such as ecosystem services, health and common resources such as water. This must be incorporated into economic development plans, decision-making and management frameworks at national and local level.
  • Respect to, and promote, the customary land rights of the Batak people.

The script of WOMEN AT LAKE’S EDGE by Lena Simanjuntak-Mertes has been published 2013 by Katakita-Publisher in Yogyakarta/Indonesia (ISBN 978-979-3778-73-0).


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