Lake Toba indigenous tribe on brink of eviction

MEDAN, Indonesia (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Lake Toba indigenous tribe is facing eviction as they are alleged to erect new buildings there - which is not allowed by rule.

The Lake Toba Authority (BPODT) has ordered an indigenous tribe who live near the massive lake to leave a state-owned land plot upon accusations that they have erected new buildings there.

The BPODT has warned dozens of families from the Raja Bius Butarbutar tribe, who live in Sigapiton subdistrict in Toba Samosir regency, North Sumatra, to leave the area by the end of June, after they found out that 10 new houses had been built in the area.

The authority, which is sanctioned under the Tourism Ministry to manage the lake, which is a caldera of a supervolcano, claims it is forbidden for the residents to build houses on the state property that is considered a heritage site.

BPODT president director Arie Prasetyo said a circular was sent to residents in response to the construction of the new houses, telling them to stop dismantling existing houses to build new ones.

“Otherwise, it’s us who will be blamed because they erected the buildings under our watch,” Arie told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

At present, 10 houses have already been built there. If nothing is done, it is feared that more houses will follow, he said.

Arie said if the deadline was not met, the authority would coordinate with the regency administration and the local police to make sure the site was emptied.

Tribe leader Togi Mangatas Butarbutar condemned the authority’s warning, saying the site was customary land belonging to the Butarbutar-Sigapiton family. “The BPODT is too arrogant. Calling us, the owners of the land, illegal dwellers really hurts.”

Delima Silalahi, the director of Community initiative Development and Study Group (KSPPM), a group researching the Raja Bius Butarbutar tribe, criticized the authority’s action, saying that if it carried on with the eviction threat, a clash with the indigenous group was unavoidable.

“This is not good. A dialog should be conducted to settle the problem, not an ultimatum. It’s very arrogant,” she said.

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