Parapat, almost a ghost town


Toba ParapatAlmostAGhostTown 1

This picture of a Toyota Kijang turned a street stall at the side of Toba Lake in Parapat, north Sumatra, may well depict the condition of this town: old, rusty, and battered. With hotels encircling the Toba Lake, Parapat has practically created a concrete interface wall between the land and the water, separating the two ecosystem, and probably cutting off the exchange of micro-nutrients between the two.

Once full of tourists who enjoyed Toba Lake, this Town is now empty: empty hotels, empty streets, and empty excursion boats. The only place that show activity is the port of Tigaraja, serving ferries to Tomok and Tuktuk, the latter is now the base for most, if not all tourists who want to explore Toba Lake and Samosir island.

Parapat is a good example of a mismanaged tourist area. I blame improper city planning, and lack of law enforcement as the culprit: the uncontrolled boom of hotels are destroying what was once loved by the tourist industry. While the government is also to blame, I would like to think that the locals also took credit for the current situation. These, and the fact that local wisdom and knowledge of environmental issues are not used (or even understood).

The latest move by the government to change the center of activities for the Toba Lake Festival (used to be called Pesta Danau Toba) last September from Parapat to Samosir, instead of cleaning up the sickness of Parapat, made the whole situation more complex, and has provoked a particular sentiment of part of the community towards the government. The remedy? Local government and the community need to sit down together. Central government may need to jump in. Get an action plan. It’s in bold, meaning a real action plan, not just a piece of paper signed by too many parties inacted in a sort of decree that will only deplete budget without any realisation.

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