The Lake Toba Degradation in Indonesia: How Water Grabbing Aggravates The Pressures on a Common-pool Resource

Author(s): Betty Betharia Sonata Naibaho
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Institution or organization of origin: National Taiwan Normal University
Country: Taiwan


The Lake Toba degradation has made it experience quite eventful prolonged years. Started with the lake rescue initiative from Indonesia’s ministry of environment and forestry in 2014; the water restoration suggestion from the World Bank; the lawsuit from an NGO to the aquaculture companies in 2017; and the latest in 2021, included in the presidential regulation as one the fifteen priority lakes. Aside from degradation-driven circumstances, Lake Toba was included as one of the ‘Ten New Bali’ programs for tourism development in 2017 and inaugurated as the official member of the UNESCO Global Geopark in 2020. The continued scrutiny of Lake Toba is the strong implication of the importance of Lake Toba for its highly regarded ecosystem services for the people on the local and national level. This paper will delineate and explain how ‘water grabbing’ and ‘open access system’ contribute to degrading Lake Toba’s water quality by utilizing previous studies combined with semi-structured interviews with the local net-fishermen and the workers from the aquaculture company. The evidence points out that water grabbing has aggravated the pressures on Lake Toba as a common pool resource, leading to the degradation of water quality. However, water-grabbing-related activities keep prevailing in the area despite the lake-rescue initiatives and related regulations. Moreover, there are differences among authorized agencies related to the lake’s carrying capacity, hindering the preservation effort. Therefore, the consensus among the authorized agencies is the first step in enforcing laws and regulations related to the utilization of Lake Toba.

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