A view of Indonesia's Lake Toba A view of Indonesia's Lake Toba 

Laudato Si’ Week: Indonesian churches warn of looming eco-disaster

As the Church celebrates Laudato Si’ Week, Churches in Indonesia are warning that deforestation around Lake Toba could lead to an environmental disaster.

By Vatican News staff writer

Lake Toba is Indonesia’s largest freshwater lake, and is nestled on the island of Sumatra.

Not only is it the largest lake in Indonesia, Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world, measuring 100 kilometers in length and 30 in width.

Despite its pristine beauty, deforestation in the area surrounding it has led to an uptick in flooding, putting residents’ lives at risk from mudslides.

Illegal logging, deforestation

In response, a Catholic priest and a local Christian church are sounding the ecological alarm.

Fr. Hilarius Kemit told UCA News that Indonesia’s government bears some responsibility for allowing illegal logging around the volcanic lake.

“Local people are often blamed because forests have given way to fields, but the government must shoulder some of the responsibility for having failed to introduce regulations to protect the environment and forests,” said the priest, who is the director of the Capuchin Office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation in Sumatra.

A view of Indonesia's Lake Toba
A view of Indonesia's Lake Toba

Fr. Kemit said that a major disaster will happen if Indonesians don’t urge local and national governments to act decisively to stop deforestation.

He also urged all Indonesians to draw inspiration from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’, saying the Pope’s message on the care of our common home is for everyone, not only Catholics.

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Ecumenical call

Other Christians are also echoing Fr. Kemit’s warning.

The Indonesian Batak Protestant Church released a statement on 16 May, urging everyone to put a halt to the environmental destruction going on around Lake Toba.

“The government should toughen laws on illegal logging and prevent further clearance,” said Rev. Robinson Butarbutar, the chairman of the church.

Beauty of nature

Lake Toba has become a major tourist attraction in recent years.

It was formed by a super-volcanic eruption some 74,000 years ago, which geologists say is the largest-known eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years.

Scientists say deforestation leads to increases in erosion and flooding, since there are fewer tree root systems to hold the soil together and minimize soil movement and mudslides.

Tourists enjoy Lake Toba in pre-pandemic times
Tourists enjoy Lake Toba in pre-pandemic times
18 May 2021, 13:44