School Children Commit to Protecting Indonesia's Aquatic Biodiversity

Celebration-of-Inland-Aquatic-Biodiversity Celebration of Inland Aquatic Biodiversity held by UN Agencies in Indonesia, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, and the Global Environment Facility at Sekolah Alam Matoa (Photo by FAO - Des Syafrizal)

Some 60 students and teachers on Thursday, June 16, gathered for the World Environment Day and World Oceans Day combined celebration at Sekolah Alam Matoa, a private elementary school that highlights Indonesian nature and biodiversity in its curriculum. They plant trees, release fish, and join an array of conservation-focused activities in a half-day event designed to promote the conservation of Indonesian nature and inland waterways among school-aged children.

UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia Valerie Julliand, FAO Representative Rajendra Aryal, senior Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Official Yayan Hikmayani and Global Environment (GEF) focal point of the Ministry of Forestry and Environment Dida Migfar Ridha official were among a delegation of officials who visited the elementary school in Depok, West Java, to kick-off the event.

"Protecting the planet really starts with loving it and all the species that depend on it," Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand told the audience of 5 to 12-year-olds seated on the school's lawn. "And that starts with enjoying being outside in nature, feeling the earth breathe around us."

Then they joined a virtual tour of UNESCO's Rinjani Biosphere Reserve in Lombok, a unique tropical mountain ecosystem home to 447 tree species and 154 species of birds. Some played UNESCO's Tsunami Ready board game and experienced animation videos through Virtual Reality. These tools, developed by the UNESCO-IOC Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Center (IOTIC) and the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BKMG), are designed to build communities' disaster resilience and prepare them to better respond to natural hazards like tsunamis.

The event also saw the showcase of three comic strips under the IFISH project, a joint FAO and Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries initiative to increase the protection of high conservation value freshwater ecosystems and their biodiversity in Indonesia. The comic strips aim to raise children's awareness of the need to preserve the environment and protect fish species including the Arowana, Belida and Sidat.

"Participation of the next generation, especially children, in the preservation of natural resources, especially fish resources, play a very important role," said Yayan Hikmayani, head of the Center for Fisheries Research at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, and National Project Coordinator for the IFish Project.

Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic country and one of its most biodiverse nations. As G20 President, Indonesia has pledged to be a voice for small island states on the world stage. The country is well-positioned to lead on SDG14, Life Below Water, and on SDG 15, Life on Land.

The UN in Indonesia's June 16 event at Sekolah Alam Matoa was based on the UN's global #OnlyOneEarth campaign, launched for World Environment Day on June 5, as well as World Oceans Day on June 8.

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