Status Quo and Potential Transformation of Java Island’s Coastal Areas into Low-Carbon Tourism

This essay reflects on the Marine Resources and Coastal Management (MRCM) course field trip at two coastal destinations in Java Island, Indonesia.

This essay reflects on the Marine Resources and Coastal Management (MRCM) course field trip at two coastal destinations in Java Island, Indonesia – Parangtritis in the south and Karimunjawa Island in the north. Organized under ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management program at UGM, Indonesia and UiA, Norway, this course was delivered by Professor Muh Aris Marfai, distinguished Head of the Geospatial Agency of Indonesia. The status quo from the observed physical sandy shores and underwater lives as well as the socio-economic characteristics of these locals will be discussed further. In addition to highlighting the best practices employed in these areas to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and challenges, this article also aims to chart the transformation into low carbon tourist destinations with respect to scientific-based approaches in managing marine resources and coastal areas.

Status Quo of Parangtritis and Karimunjawa Area

Administratively, Parangtritis coastal area located at about 27 km south of Yogyakarta and it intersect with Opak River in the west. It lies between 7°59’14” – 8°1’45” S and 110°16’40” – 110°20’22” E as part of Bantul Regency within Special Region of Yogyakarta Province. Physically characterized by a sloping beach with crescentic morphology and strong rip currents combined with rocky hills, unique dunes, and white sandy beach. Home to 8,000 people with the main economic activities include tourism and hospitality related-business (hotels, resorts, restaurants, and traditional crafts markets). In addition, services supporting tourism as guided tours, transportation, and activities in fresh-water man-made pool and strolling along the shore using ATV, Jeep, Horse cart, contribute to the local economy.

As for Karimunjawa Island, it is an archipelago located in the Java Sea, north of Semarang, Central Java or situated approximately 80 km northwest of Jepara. It has total population of around 9,600 in the area of 71 km2. The island, which is also one of seven marine national parks in Indonesia, feature a mixed of coastal areas, sandy beaches, mangrove forests, and low hills. It is also known for its aquatic ecosystems, including coral reefs – about 300 species of corals and seagrass beds, that support a wide variety of marine species – more than 500 reef fish. While the initial main economic activity revolve around fishing and aquaculture (shrimp), tourism has been growing for past decades with both local and international tourist visit to do snorkelling and diving.

The Best Practices and Challenges in Fostering SDGs

Table below describes the implemented initiatives and challenges associated with the SDGs, particularly relating No 6 Clean Water and Sanitation, No 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, No 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and No 14 Life Below Water.

SDGsParangtritisKarimunjawa Island
6(+) Waste management systems are in place to ensure access to clean water. Practices include not littering, especially near the river, and segregating waste. (-) The absence of a decentralized municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and poor connectivity from houses, hotels, and restaurants to centralized WTTP are due to economic constraints and a lack of political will in providing sewage pumping systems. (-) The growing F&B industry and hospitality sector, from small to large scale, demand clean and drinkable water.(+) Despite limited clean water availability, educational programs promoting water conservation and sustainable usage, including water-saving irrigation, have been conducted. For instance, Diponegoro University in Semarang often carries out practical work on this small island. (-) The fast-growing privatized aquaculture areas raises concerns about declining water quality and its potential impact on the coastal and marine environment.
8(+) The newly built Edge Resort, a boutique eco-resort, and the sunset-view tourist destination called Obelix Hills, covering an 8-hectare area, provide employment opportunities for locals. (+) Training programs for community members to engage in hospitality sector. (-) Competition between informal and formal business.(+) Development of small business, such as Bamboo T-shirt, local coffee shops, and eateries offering alcohol beverages to attract more foreign tourists. (-) While the privatized aquaculture is growing and it emphasize job creation, a sustainable fisheries management is yet to be implemented to also support local fishing communities.
9(+) Sand dunes protected areas. (+) The Geomaritime Science Park, spanning 2 hectares, can host educational programs and serve as a research and innovation hub that further supports sustainable practices in the area. (-) The physical appearance of the Geomaritime Science Park is unappealing. However, it can be improved, for instance, by incorporating innovative technology such as VR, as seen in the Space Krenovation Park in Chon Buri, Thailand, to attract more visitors. (-) The development of new road infrastructure and buildings does not seem to consider potential environmental impacts, coastal hazards, and adherence to legal regulations.(+) Technology adoption to monitor sea level in a real-time basis at northern part of the island. (+) Eco-tourism initiatives, such as coral reef project managed by Trilogy Ocean Restoration and mangrove forest with about 62 types in 10.5 km2 area, showcase innovations in conserving natural resources. (+) Solar panel used by the boats to provide electricity. (-) The newly built airport is not functional nor operational.  
14(-) Unclear if there is a promotion of sustainable fishing practices.  (+) Conservation projects focusing on coral reefs and seagrass beds. (+) Community involvement in marine conservation efforts. (-) Unclear if there is a promotion of sustainable fishing practices.

Enabling Low-Carbon Tourism

Given the prevailing best practices and challenges observed at two coastal areas of Java Island, Parangtritis and Karimunjawa Island, it is evident that there exists untapped potential for their further transformation into low-carbon tourism destinations. This evolution can be achieved through a holistic approach in environmental stewardship, community engagement, and innovative practices. At the end, such evolution not only will minimize the environmental impact of tourism but also enhance economic well-being of the locals.

In the case of Parangtritis, the unique physical characteristics and morphology of the area not allow the growth of mangrove as a soft-structure to protect the coastal area at the same time acting as carbon capture and storage. However, the incorporation of renewable energy resources, including solar panel and biogas, emerges as the potential to substantially cut carbon emissions from traditional energy consumption, be it in the form of electricity, fuel, or gas. This green-energy transition, particularly if implemented across hospitality and recreational facilities, could reduce about 30% of carbon emissions annually. Furthermore, an additional decrease of 20% can be reached through the adoption of eco-transportation and food to general waste management practices.

Meanwhile, in Karimunjawa island, with its rich mangrove ecosystem and marine biodiversity, the sustainable tourism model can be further refined by leveraging solar power for boats, promoting zero-waste initiatives akin to those implemented in Kamikatsu Village in Japan, and supporting the development of eco-lodges. While locals express reservations about the rapid expansion of privatized aquaculture area, the underlying motivation remains unclear – whether rooted genuine environmental degradation concerns or driven by perceived threats posed by the industry. Hence, a continuous improvement of sustainable and circular education initiatives with the engagement of local communities as stewards of their natural resources. Simultaneously, fostering awareness campaigns for tourist can protect the marine and coastal biotic and abiotic systems.

All in all, the comprehensive strategy and holistic approach of scientific-based coastal management with the integration of innovative technologies, both destinations can not only enhance the visitor experience but also contribute significantly to the global effort towards sustainable and low-carbon tourism. Nevertheless, recognizing regulatory support is also crucial, collaboration with local authorities is necessary to establish and enforce policies that promote and incentivize sustainable tourism practices, ensuring a balance between environmental preservation and tourism-driven economic development. Through these concerted initiatives, there is optimism to transform Parangtritis and Karimunjawa Island ito low-carbon tourism destinations, as showcased by the success of Palau in the Pacific which achieved a 45% associated to its tourism activities.

Alifiya Ikhsani
Alifiya Ikhsani
ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management, a collaborative master program designed by Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia and University of Agder, Norway.