The meeting included around fifty people representing regions from across Central Java (Pati, Rembang, Grobogan). This workshop discussed knowledge and understanding about the importance of preserving the Karst area (including Mount Kendeng), and tradition and culture as valuable local assets.
Another point of interest about the meeting was that the communities were called upon to understand the history of the Kendeng Mountains – how people have sustained themselves historically there. From a geographical perspective, the Kendeng covers the area from Central Java - districts like Blora, Grobogan, Rembang and Pati - across to East Java. This vast expanse is often called the Karst.
In one of the discussions, three main functions of the Karst were highlighted as key to environmental sustainability. First, the Karst has a great capacity to absorb rain water, to capture it and discharge it into spring (fresh water aquifers). Second, the Karst can absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), as much as 0.41 billion metric tonnes from the atmosphere annually. Third, the Karst contains various types of minerals which are needed in industry. These points were all discussed, including what would be the impacts when the existence of the Karst and its functions are under threat.
The point that finally helped make the communities understand the conservation efforts was when they also took into consideration the specific threats made to Mount Kendeng, in terms of its susceptibility to industry exploitation. Data collected by JATAM suggests that 76 mining permits have already been issued by the local governments, in 23 districts, 42 sub-districts and 52 villages, covering an area of about 34, 944.90 hectares. These exacerbate the drought emergency, as revealed by the BPBD (National Disaster Risk Management Authority) in Central Java. The authority used data compiled by YSI from various sources.
Communities are specifically concerned about the threat to tradition and culture. The threat relates to the loss of cultural and burial sites scattered along the Kendeng Mountains by massive development. Cultural and burial sites are symbols of irreplaceable history. It was this realisation that prompted organizer to locate the workshop at Ronggoboyo Burial Site, in Grasak Hamlet, Brati Village, Kayen Sub-district, Pati. The location was meant to remind communities of their rich histories and the meaning of these cultural symbols. Unfortunately, these sites and cultural elements are not included in the parameters of the ‘National Karst Landscape’ (KBAK).
‘Preserving Mount Kendeng, which is part of the Karst area, also means safeguarding tradition and culture which have been present there throughout history. These things cannot be separated because they comprise the specific ecosystem there’, as Parlan from YSI confirms.
At the end of the workshop, the community representatives agreed to not only stop certain activities which are degrading the environment, but, in protecting the Kendeng Mountains, together preserve tradition and culture too. This deal was concluded by a prayer together at the end of the meeting. (Rossi and Wuri)