National Recognition to Global Acclaim: Merangin Jambi UNESCO Global Geopark

The Merangin Jambi National Geopark, also known as the Merangin Jambi UNESCO Global Geopark, is a popular tourist destination in Indonesia.

The Merangin Jambi National Geopark, also known as the Merangin Jambi UNESCO Global Geopark, is a popular tourist destination in Indonesia. It boasts amazing natural beauty, home to over 4000 plant species and 372 fauna species, many of which are rare and endangered. Located in Jambi Province, Indonesia, the Merangin Jambi National Geopark has an area of 4,832.31 km2, with the highest peak being Mount Masurai. This geopark consists of geological sites, biological sites, and cultural sites that have a diversity of regional scenery, such as waterfalls, lakes, caves, mountains, craters, valleys, and rivers. In 2014, Merangin Jambi National Geopark failed to gain UNESCO recognition as a world heritage site.

Merangin Jambi Geological Significance

The design of Merangin Jambi Geopark as a national geopark dates back to 2013. Merangin Jambi National Geopark’s main theme is “Merangin Jambi Represents the Best and Most Complete Fossil Flora of the Early Permian.” There are three core geological features in Merangin Jambi National Geopark. Merangin Geopark’s rock characteristics date back more than 200 million years, particularly since the discovery of Jambi Flora Fossils in 1926. The Merangin River contains 500-meter-thick trees and marine fossils that date back 300 million years, making them the only ones left in the world. There are karst expanses with varied landscapes; both exokarst and endokarst have traces of ancient heritage. The volcanic tectonic phenomenon of Mount Masurai has led to the formation of several landforms such as lakes, waterfalls, columnar kinks, and geothermal manifestations that still continue today. The complex also houses rare and protected flora and fauna, as well as the histories of past civilizations. Cultural sites in Merangin Jambi National Geopark show how local people still maintain their ancestral culture, which is embodied in several traditional villages that still continue today in this modern era of technological advances. All of this geological uniqueness in one area can be found in the Merangin Jambi National Geopark area.

The Journey Towards UNESCO Recognition

Having experienced failure, Jambi Province again submitted Merangin Geopark as one of the world’s geopark sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) oversees UNESCO Global Geoparks, an integrated geographical area that manages sites and landscapes of international geological significance with the principles of protection, education, and holistic sustainable development. Bottom-up approaches that combine conservation with sustainable development and involve local communities are increasingly popular. Currently, there are 213 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 48 countries. The efforts undertaken by the Merangin Jambi community to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark Status include conservation initiatives, community engagement programs, educational programs promoting geological heritage, and collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

Following a setback in 2014, the Jambi provincial government restructured the governance of Merangin Jambi National Geopark, shifting from document-based management to a more hands-on approach. The management of Merangin Jambi National Geopark involves numerous related parties and stakeholders, including the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources through the Geological Agency, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Technology Research, the Jambi Provincial Government, Indonesian Geopark Experts, members of various organizational forums, the regional apparatus of the Merangin district government, private parties, and tourism awareness groups at the geosite level. Dossier is one of the requirements for assessment by the assessment team to assess whether it is worthy of being part of the UNESCO Global Geopark.

Based on a report from the performance report of the Merangin Regency Regional Development Planning Agency in 2021, the stages that have been passed up to the submission of the dossier to UNESCO Global Geopark are the preparation of the Merangin Jambi Geopark Master Plan in 2020 based on Presidential Regulation 9 of 2019. Furthermore, Merangin Jambi National Geopark then participated in the selection process by the Indonesian National Committee Team for UNESCO as one of the candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Candidates from Indonesia. The Executive Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia, issued a letter on July 30, 2021, outlining Merangin National Geopark’s intent to become a UNESCO Global Geopark. The Letter of Intent of Merangin National Geopark Jambi towards UNESCO Global Geopark issued by the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO is a statement that Merangin National Geopark Jambi qualifies as one of the UNESCO Global Geopark candidates. Since Merangin Jambi National Geopark has qualified for UNESCO Global Geopark, the Merangin Jambi Geopark Management Agency, in collaboration with geopark experts, related institutions, and local government elements, has been preparing the draft dossier. The Merangin Jambi National Geopark Dossier Application was then submitted to Mr. Kristof Vandenberghe, Chief of UNESCO’s Section for Earth Sciences and Geo-Hazard Risk Reduction, Secretary of the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme, Earth Sciences and Geo-Hazards Risk Reduction Section, through the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, on November 30, 2021.

In addition to the dossier preparation stage, various activities of Merangin Jambi National Geopark were also carried out by involving many parties, such as the formation of the Geopark Merangin Youth Forum, training for tour guides, and efforts to embrace CSR funds from companies in Merangin Regency to be able to intervene in geosite locations spread across 14 sub-districts.

Based on the 7th UNESCO Global Geoparks Council Report, a UNESCO Global Geopark application dossier and evaluation report concluded that Merangin Jambi, Indonesia, meets the criteria for becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark. The report recommends that the Executive Board endorse this candidate as a UNESCO Global Geopark for a four-year period, with the following recommendations: First, improve the conservation and interpretation of geological heritage by strengthening the inventory of geological heritage and excavating river banks to find new fossils. Secondly, enhance the visibility of the Merangin Jambi National Geopark by incorporating English into all information and tour guides in an innovative manner. Thirdly, enhance the management of the geopark by involving more local and stakeholder participation, taking into account aspects such as natural environment preservation and disaster prevention. Fourth, in the context of geotourism, Merangin Jambi National Geopark enhances cooperation between local government and geopark partners, develops tourist monitoring plans, and develops existing facilities and accommodation. Fifth, the Merangin Jambi geopark is stepping up its efforts to provide local residents and visitors with training and education on topics related to natural diversity, human-nature interactions, and disaster risk mitigation. Finally, strengthen the network by engaging and cooperating with the Asia Pacific and global geopark networks, particularly in the context of biodiversity conservation and promotion.

After going through a long process, finally, on May 24, 2023, Merangin Jambi National Geopark succeeded in getting recognition and its status as a UNESCO Global Geopark at the UNESCO annual session. The previous name, Merangin Jambi National Geopark, has now been changed to Merangin Jambi UNESCO Global Geopark.

The benefits of achieving UNESCO Global Geopark status

Merangin Jambi UNESCO Global Geopark is now on the World Tourism Map. Positive impacts of achieving UNESCO Global Geopark Status for Merangin Jambi include increased tourism and economic development, enhanced protection of geological heritage, recognition and appreciation for Merangin Jambi’s geological significance, and fostering community pride and cultural awareness. Emphasize the importance of geoparks in promoting geological knowledge and sustainable development. To support regional activities, there are several transportation facilities available, such as terminals, public transportation routes connecting with other districts, cities, and provinces. Equipment for special interest activities includes guides and translators, digital and printed information media, and also Geopark information centers.

Shavira Melanie Putri
Shavira Melanie Putri
Shavira Melanie Putri is a Master’s student of International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada with an interest in security studies, international politics, and global south topics.