“I’d love to raise awareness in France about coral bleaching in Indonesia. I know that many people in Western countries might not be aware of the importance in the ecosystem of submarine biodiversity, which mainly depends on corals.”
With more than 13,000 islands spread across 5,000km along the equator, Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world.
But Gili Trawangan feels like a village, located just off the northern coastline of Lombok. After spending a week on this tiny island, the locals start referring to you on a first-name basis. As a result of its size, about 15km², most people living on the island have heard of Delphine Robbe, the full-time coordinator of the local NGO, Gili Eco Trust.Gili Eco Trust was founded in 2000, following destructive fishing practices around three Gili islands – Trawangan, Meno and Air. Since then, they have been campaigning to restore and maintain the region’s coral reefs – thanks to a promising technology known as “Biorock“.
Over time, more and more tourists have begun visiting the Gili, with Trawangan – also known as Gili T – being the most popular. The three islands’ submarine biodiversity is one of the most diverse in the world, making diving a popular activity among tourists.
With the help of locals, volunteers and interns from around the world, the NGO has extended its projects and many eco projcts are taking place on land. Daniella Sinclair, a 22-year-old student from London, United Kingdom, spoke to the IPF about her experience of volunteering at Gili Eco Trust as an “Eco Warrior”.
“The size of the island is small scaled enough for one individual to have an impact and I think that’s why the Gili Eco Trust draws so many young people. Things are manageable and the NGO can have a big impact here.”
Gili Eco Trust: Eco Warriors get to work in Gili
The work of the Eco Warriors varies from participating in “Clean Up Beach Days”, to raising awareness and educating the local population through workshops organised in schools. They also teach people visiting Gili how to become “responsible tourists”, outlining some of the things they can do to avoid damaging the coral reefs further.Currently, Gili Eco Trust is organising garbage recycling and setting up a waste management system, which is something that isn’t controlled by the government. Gili T’s waste dump is quickly becoming an emergency situation as all the rubbish from the island ends up in the same place – without being recycled.
In order to prevent the island from turning into a giant junkyard, the Eco Warriors go to the island’s dump three times to help the local full-time workers. Here, located far away from the paradisiac beaches, the Eco Warriors collect glass bottles and organise recycling processes.
Once the bottles are collected, they are crushed into sand or gravel, which can then be used for bricks and building materials. Heavy bottom glass bottles are used to create ashtrays, glassware or lamp shades for the house – an alternative and creative idea for using non-recyclable bottles.
But all this work wouldn’t be possible without the help of the young Eco Warriors from around the world.
Gili Eco Trust: the impact on Eco Warriors
Christine Evans is a 28-year-old aquarist from Houston, United States. She spent two months with Gili Eco Trust and believes that a positive impact is still possible through common interest and passion, despite the lack of help from the government.
“I believe everyone can have an impact here… [With] all these individual people coming together, you get more ideas and it’s easier and more effective – especially when you have a bunch of people who have the same passion and interests.”
Gili Eco Trust has given the opportunity for young people to experience nature and the importance of a balanced ecosystem.
Johan Meny, 20, arrived to Gili T from France. As a student in Management and Nature Protection, he already had a lot of knowledge on submarine biodiversity. Despite already been well-versed in the issue, he told the IPF how Gili Eco Trust had a huge impact on him.
“I’d love to raise awareness in France about coral bleaching in Indonesia,” Johan said. “I know that many people in Western countries might not be aware of the importance in the ecosystem of submarine biodiversity, which mainly depends on corals.”
To find out more about Gili Eco Trust, visit their website, follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.
“My experience with Gili Eco Trust has confirmed my decision towards my future – I’d love to keep on going with submarine conservation.