​​Building a Joint Initiative: Watershed Management to Mitigate Natural Disasters

​Indonesia​   English


The purpose of a watershed is to contain and store rainwater to be channeled into the sea. Watersheds support the sustainability of many activities, such as Hydroelectric Plant, Regional Water Company, and meeting local needs for farming, fishing, and recreational activities. Ironically, 25% or 118 out of 450 watersheds in Indonesia are in a critical condition, and among which is the Batang Toru Watershed in North Sumatra Province.

The area has a size of 320,000ha and stretches over five districts: Humbang Hasundutan, North Tapanuli, South Tapanuli, Central Tapanuli, and Mandailing Natal. The deforestation and degradation plaguing the forest cover of Batang Toru have increased the frequency of floods and landslides in the area, such as the one happened in Angkola Sangkunur Sub-District, South Tapanuli District in May 2016.

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EditDescription:Workshop Watershed Management in Central Tapanuli.
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Safoan, SP, the Head of Asahan Barumun Watershed Management Agency (Balai Pengelolaan DAS/BPDAS) said, “The deterioration of Batang Toru Watershed is caused by unsustainable activities of the local communities, including converting forest into settlements, land clearing for large-scale agricultural and plantation activities, as well as mining activities”.

Batang Toru Watershed's status has been upgraded to priority for both provincial and national level management. This status change was possible due to the improved understanding of the watershed's importance for North Sumatra's development and for better standard of living of the local communities.

Instead of being the responsibility of one agency, watershed management requires collaboration and cooperation between various parties. In March 2015, Conservation International (CI) Indonesia, through its Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP), organized a workshop to discuss the management of Batang Toru Watershed in Pandan City, Central Tapanuli.

In collaboration with the North Sumatra provincial government, Central Tapanuli district government, South Tapanuli district government, North Tapanuli district government, and Asahan Barumun Watershed Management Agency (BPDAS Asahan Barumun), this activity resulted in several mutual agreements, including the need to establish a Batang Toru Watershed Management Communication Forum as a channel to coordinate and communicate between districts for the purpose of the area’s joint management.

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To follow up on the agreements, in September 2015, BPDAS Asahan Barumun and CI Indonesia-SLP facilitated the five districts in establishing a communication and coordination forum, i.e. the Batang Toru Watershed Management Communication Forum (Forum Komunikasi Pengelolaan Daerah Aliran Sungai Batang Toru). This multi-stakeholder forum consists of people from the governments, academicians, private sectors, communities, and NGOs from the five districts. 

Ir. Harmi P. Marpaung, M.Eng, the forum's vice-president from Central Tapanuli District said, "The forum is an excellent start to improving the communication and coordination for managing the Batang Toru Watershed". He hoped that it could help prevent natural disasters, such as the flash flood in Central Tapanuli District in November 2014.

Currently, the Regional Development Planning Agency (Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Daerah/ BAPPEDA) of North Sumatra Province is in the process of ratifying the Decision Letter of North Sumatra Governor to secure a permanent legal ground for the forum. In the attempt to support the forum and its work, North Sumatra BAPPEDA, Asahan Barumun BPDAS, and CI Indonesia-SLP have developed a draft of Batang Toru Watershed Management Plan (Rencana Pengelolaan Daerah Aliran Sungai/RPDAS), which indicates the watershed's condition and compiles the plan, strategy, implementation, observation, and evaluation for sustainably managing the Batang Toru Watershed.

The draft is currently being finalized for ratification into a Decision Letter of North Sumatra Governor, to be included in the spatial plan of every district within the area of Batang Toru Watershed. The document will serve as a guideline and point of reference for the development of each district, so that the area can be utilized in a coordinated and appropriate manner according to its intended purpose. (Yoesman Tanjung/June, 28​ 2016)