Indonesia registers names of more than 2,500 islands, aims to develop tourism and fishing industries

Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno (centre) stands in front of a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017.
Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno (centre) stands in front of a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The government is seeking to maximise the benefit from Indonesia's recently registered islands, which have been verified by the United Nations.

Indonesia registered the names of the country's 2,590 new islands with the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) during its 30th meeting and the 11th UN Conference on Standardisation of Geographical Names, which took place at the UN headquarters in New York from Aug 7 to Aug 18.

Following the verification process, Indonesia now has 16,056 islands recorded on the UN's world's island list. The list includes standardised details on the names, coordinates and locations of the islands.

"Although the government had collected information about the coordinates (of the new islands), most of them had not yet been named. That is why we needed to carry out a registration and verification process," said Arif Havas Oegroseno, deputy minister for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister.

According to the office, 17,504 islands have been recorded as part of the territory of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. "Hence, there are still 1,448 islands that need validation and verification," Arif told The Jakarta Post recently.

Registering the names of islands is an administrative procedure that is crucial for UN member countries, as it prevents an island from having different names.

By registering the name of an island, however, the UN does not acknowledge sovereignty over a territory. "The UN, especially the UNGEGN, has a clear position here that it only standardises the naming procedure of an island and it does not give any sovereignty acknowledgment or any acknowledgment regarding the legal status of an island," Arif explained.

With ongoing climate change and various nature anomalies, it is important for every country to recognise all islands in its territory. In Indonesia, natural phenomena have led to the emergence of new islands in several areas, but at the same time, some islands have disappeared because of erosion.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry data show that a total of 29,261 hectares of land across Indonesia suffered from erosion between 2000 and 2014.

On average, 1,950 ha of land were damaged and removed by waves every year during that period.

"Therefore, the verification of islands and names of islands must continue for the sake of geographical certainty in Indonesia," said Arif.

Separately, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry secretary general Rifky Effendi Hardijanto said all islands in Indonesia should be registered, so that they would appear on the world map.

He said the government had prepared programmes for the outermost of the newly registered islands and was ready to develop marine centres and integrated fisheries.

Ricky further said the government would also encourage local administrations of the new islands to develop the fisheries sector through public support, such as building ports or ice factories and other assistance for the noncultivated fishing industry.

The government was also committed to maximising the tourism potential on the new islands, he went on.

"The economic growth of Indonesia's marine tourism is about 70 per cent. We have to prepare more skilled human resources to accelerate it further," Ricky said.

Several teams dispatched by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry are now in the process of verifying the 1,448 unregistered islands, which lie mostly in remote areas.

"It is hoped that 99 per cent of all islands of Indonesia will have been registered at the UN by 2019 if no natural calamities occur," said Arif.