I remember it was summer 2013 when I cancelled my plan to hike the highest peak in Java, Mount Semeru. Since my first summit on Mount Merbabu, 2009, Semeru has always been my dream but I cancelled my plan for “simple” reasoning. A few days earlier I saw a picture from social media depicting how crowd Mount Semeru was with hikers. Seemed that newly released movie back to 2012, 5 cm (a movie about the thrilling story of climbing Mount Semeru), has triggered a massive increase on mountaineering activity in Indonesia. I couldn’t really imagine how much garbage would be left in Mount Semeru, how much damage would be caused on the vegetation, how much disturbance would affect the environment and the wildlife. And who was going to fix the mess? It really blew my mind and stroke my deepest consciousness to witness such an event was taking a place in a wild, peaceful and quiet environment like mountains.
A picture tweeted by @DChaztelo on June 2013 depicting crowd summit attack of thousands of hikers to Mahameru Peak, Mount Semeru, Java
Since then, the trend has never slowed down and my concern about the fate of Indonesian mountains has also grown stronger. I started to see more and more evidence that human activities are actually killing mountains. I and a friend witness a river was drained out and the dragonflies were gone after people installing pipelines to get water from a mountain. We also got stories from villagers about huge flood hitting their village after upland forests were opened. Another story was about a herd of wild boars destroying the agricultural field of the nearby village. We have also heard complains about piles of garbage on the mountain were burnt or buried. I personally experienced how bad the traffic to the mountain is during the weekend. Latest news I just heard was about 8 carcasses of Muntjac deer were left by hunters and a female Javan leopard was trap-captured by conservation agency after killing 26 goats of locals and would never be returned back to the wild. All those stories come from one mountain, Mount Lawu, Java. There are more stories and facts that I could give but way too much that my brain couldn’t pick them out one by one.
If I have to mention one reason why those issues are really making me worry is the fact that I am fully dependent on the mountains for my life. I get water and my food from those highlands. If they collapsed, where would I get my subsistence from? Sounds selfish, but I realize that it is actually the root reasoning of why human are trying to protect nature, they want to protect them self as they couldn’t live without nature. Another fact that really opens my eyes is that in reality, Java has not much natural ecosystem left. As the most populous island in the world, civilization has replaced almost all forests in Java into human settlements and others. A small portion of wilderness where many many many threatened species living under their protection are scattered and fragmented in those tiny dots of mountains.
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any specific program addressing these issues. Mountains are not even become a priority landscape in a national document such as IBSAP (Indonesian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plant). Neither could I find any organization working on mountain regions. How come such a fragile threatened ecosystem receives little attention? I hope that we don’t really take our mountain for granted.
It took years, but these findings are what really bring to the establishment of Tanah Tinggi Highland Conservation back to December 2018. At the moment, there are 6 passionate and dedicated individuals in our team who has their own stories and experiences about mountains. And we are really excited about the upcoming project of Tanah Tinggi, especially Tanah Tinggi is the first organization that addresses biodiversity and conservation issue in the mountains. We are competing with time before we lose what we got from our mountains. We are not living for granted, we are not taking our mountain for granted. We believe that humanity could learn and could change, so together we can really make an impact until we aa s human could live in harmony with nature. (Rdwn).
Featured image: Ranu Kumbolo, July 2012. Image by Abdi Purnomo, retrieved from https://www.batikimono.com/2013/02/film-5-cm-dikritik-pengelola-taman.html