The Gili Islands are already a very popular tourist destination and are famous for being a divers' paradise. The islands' popularity grows year by year, which leads to increases in the population and adds to the impact of human activities on the islands. This pressure represents a true risk for the beautiful island environment and for the coral reefs which surround the islands. The situation has become critical with the pollution generated by the tourists and the local population, combined with careless anchoring of the boats and destructive fishing practices. Following the same destructive pattern as in many other regions in world, several other causes contributing to the degradation are global warming, violent storms, and deforestation.
The combination of all these problems has already caused devastating damage to these islands. On land, the beaches are eroding, and offshore, the coral reefs are deteriorating, especially at shallow depths. That’s why all the people concerned about these issues, as well as the main diving clubs of the Gili islands, established the NGO Gili Eco Trust in 2000, in order to support the initiative of local association SATGAS, in order to protect these wonderful islands and to encourage an ecological and healthy mindset.
Several ecological projects and many coordinated actions have already been employed to address these problems, but more needs to be done to protect and encourage sustainable nature within this little piece of heaven. Since 2004, more than 100 Biorock structures have been installed around the Gili islands. Thanks to the initiative of Delphine Robbe and all the divers who support Gili Eco Trust, combined with the generous funding of the local companies, the needs of nature and people have a common purpose.
The erosion of the beaches is getting worse. Many small islands in the world, such as the Gili archipelago, might one day disappear due to the destruction of their reefs and due to the sea level rise. The erosion of the beaches accelerate, because the strength of the waves pass unhindered across the damaged coral reefs, a situation that must be reversed to save the land.
We know that walls and dikes on beaches are not efficient to reduce the soil erosion. It only reflects the waves, taking away the sand off the beaches and may worsen rather than help the island landscape. Therefore, inspired by a project in the Ihuru islands in the Maldives, the Gili Eco Trust decided to invest in the Biorock technology and to implement the first Biorocks in the north of Gili Trawangan, with the support of its sponsors.
The Biorock structures, smartly placed in strategic locations, break the waves, reduce their strength, and bring sand onto to the beaches, rather than sweeping sand off. This regeneration of a natural coral barrier is necessary to protect the beach and the coral reef.
The Biorock Technology on Gili Trawangan has been amazingly successful. Whilst many storms have hit the island, especially in 2010, the beach has not receded and it has even gained a few meters.
After the first Biorock structure was installed in 2004 in front of the hotel Villa Ombak, over 112 Biorock structures were built and implemented around the three Gili’s islands.
Gili Eco Trust is the main driver for the success of the Biorock program for the Gili archipelago. To share the benefit of this technology more widely, a Biorock seminar is organized every two years by Gili Eco Trust in collaboration with the Kerang Lestari project from Pemuteran, PADI, the Global Coral Reef Alliance, the government of Lombok, the University of Mataram and the local companies of the Gili’s islands. Participants come from all over the world to learn and share the good practices.
The eighth Biorock reef restoration seminar took place in Gili Trawangan on November 12th-18th, 2012. Dr. Tom Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, and co-inventor of the Biorock technology, held conferences and made presentations about the worldwide coral threats, coral diseases, global warming and its effects on coral reefs and beach erosion, and about various reef restoration programs. The workshops offered a complete overview on the Biorock technology, from the theory to the practice: design, construction, installation, monitoring, maintenance and repair. Marine biologists and reef experts presented analysis, documentaries and slide shows about coral reefs and marine studies.
These workshops always provide an opportunity to install new Biorock structures around the islands. The local companies of the islands contribute and sponsor the Biorock technology, and they are all willing to have their own structure in front of their resorts or dive shops.
The Gili Eco Trust is now expanding its activities. We are opening the Gili Eco Trust to any company from Gili Trawangan who would like to participate in the Eco Trust local meetings and will promote the eco-friendly guidelines that we implement in order to make the island a better place. We are working on education, waste management, recycling, ban of plastic bags, sewage and wastewater, animal care etc.