Remarks by Ambassador Blake at Lombok Community Recycling Center, Lombok

Governor of West Nusa Tengara Zainul Majei,
Mayor of Mataram H Ayar Abduh,
Vice Mayor Fauzan Khalid (also PMI Branch Chairman),
H. Mesir Suryadi, PMI Chairman, NTB Province
H. Mohan Roliskana, the PMI Chairperson for Mataram City
Ritola Tasmaya, PMI Secretary General
Tom Alcedo (Country Representative American Red Cross)
Giorgio Ferrario (Head of Delegation of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

I am delighted to join you today to launch a community facility that will help keep garbage out of Lombok’s rivers, canals and ultimately beaches.

Floods are a regular occurrence in many Indonesian cities.  And we know that one of the underlying causes of these floods is that rivers and canals are often clogged with garbage and therefore cannot do their job of draining urban areas.

So, proper waste management is more than a public health and hygiene issue – as important as these are – it’s a key part of protecting families and homes from flooding.

Under the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, the United States and Indonesia are working together to help mitigate the impacts and become more resilient to disasters.

While we will always be ready to assist, the United States is also helping to reduce the risks and even prevent some hazards from occurring.

Working with PMI (Indonesian Red Cross) and American Red Cross in West Nusa Tenggara, USAID is also supporting coastal environmental protection, as this will help protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

This morning I visited nurseries and planting programs designed to rehabilitate and strengthen essential coastal vegetation. So far this project has planted 170,000 mangroves and 17,000 coastal trees. In NTB alone over 50,000 mangroves and 8,000 casuarina and other trees have been planted to protect the coast line.

These Disaster Risk reduction activities are also occurring in communities in Central Java and in Aceh. Altogether more than 100,000 people in 14 communities and schools are better prepared to respond to disaster.

But this community can also address another growing issue of global significance, that of ocean trash.  A recent study published in the respected journal Science concluded that Indonesia is the second largest contributor to plastic ocean trash in the world, after China.

This is not only a health hazard to fish populations but a local problem for tourism industries such as Lombok’s when this trash washes up on their beaches and discourages tourists from coming back.

The Governor of NTB told me this morning that the number of tourists to Lombok has grown from 500,000 in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2014.  So what you do here matters to the tourism industry and we hope it can be duplicated.

Indeed, I hope this community recycling and composting center will be just the beginning of wider changes by local communities to find cost effective solutions that will enable them to take responsibility for keeping Indonesia’s rivers and oceans free of garbage.

It has already proved to be a catalyst to bring the local government and the community together to discuss environmental issues and is building skills in management and marketing.

There already is a ready market for recycled plastic.  The compost produced will be used in public gardens and help contribute to food security – even generating revenue.

Once again, thank you for inviting me here today to see how communities and local leaders are organizing to reduce disaster risks and creating a more resilient environment for future generations.  We are proud to be part of a solution to a problem that affects this and so many other coastal communities.
As prepared.