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UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2021: Getting to know biosphere reserve and Sembalun area


“You are the future of the Rinjani-Lombok Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO Global Geopark. Without the engagement and leadership of young people, Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO Global Geopark research Rinjani-Lombok will not be possible.”

Moh. Djelid, Director and Representative UNESCO Jakarta Office

Working toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2030, UNESCO Jakarta and The Water Agency collaborate in the UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2021, which aims to engage and educate youth in actualizing the way toward sustainable future developments.

Twenty-five carefully selected participants from various backgrounds and universities will work in five teams to solve the water-related issues in one of the UNESCO designated sites: the Rinjani-Lombok Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO Global Geopark.

Located within the biosphere boundary, the beautiful Sembalun District becomes the focus area of the program. A mix of issues from technical to social is present in this area. Land-use change, unsupervised water use, and natural disasters are only some of the problems contributing to the district’s water availability and accessibility.

In solving the many water-related issues of Sembalun District, participants were challenged to develop innovative ideas in three concept solutions: Water for Food, Water for Living, and Water and Safety. The program runs fully online and consists of three phases.

The first phase was an introduction moment for the teams, the mentors, and the local experts to familiarize everyone with the case study location in Kecamatan Sembalun, Lombok Timur, and the challenges the locals face. It started with the Technical Meeting on Friday, 1 October 2021, followed by a 4-day workshop on 4-7 October 2021.

The first day of the workshop was about UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, youth engagement, and Rinjani-Lombok UNESCO Global Geopark & Biosphere Reserve (RLUGGp & BR). We had Mohamed Djelid as The Director and Representative UNESCO Jakarta Office to open the workshop, followed by Hans Dencker Thulstrup from UNESCO Jakarta, who explained UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Programmes and the SDGs comprehensively to the participants. We also had Prof Y. Purwanto from Indonesia MAB National Committee under BRIN and M. Farid Zaini as the director of RLUGGp & BR. As the local representatives, Baiq Sri Mulya from DMO Sembalun elaborated the facts and local conditions in Kecamatan Sembalun. The first day of the workshop was closed by highlighting the importance of youth engagement and water resilience from Gregor Van Essen as the Managing Director of The Water Agency.

The second day of the workshop was where the participants dug deeper into Kecamatan Sembalun. Several local agencies from Kabupaten Lombok Timur were invited as spokespersons to enrich the participants with the local condition in the best way possible as they could not visit the area in person. The session was opened with a virtual site visit from DMO Sembalun, followed by back-to-back presentations and Q&A sessions from local agencies and local communities. We had Sosiawan Putriaji S.T., M.Si from Public Works and Spatial Planning Agency of Kabupaten Lombok Timur; Ariadi, S.Hut., M.Sc from Agricultural Agency of Kabupaten Lombok Timur; M. Tohri Habibi, S.STP., M.H from Environmental Agency of Kabupaten Lombok Timur; Toni Satya Wibawa, SP, ME. from Local Disaster Management Agency of Kabupaten Lombok Timur; Mertawi, SPd as the Head of Sembalun District; and Nurbaeti, ST as a represntative from local community, SembaluNina.

After two busy days of presentation and Q&A sessions, the third day of the workshop was time for the team to start challenging their mind in identifying the issues, problems, local stakeholders and producing a pathway solution as the output of the Phase I activity. Each team is equipped with at least one mentor to help them capture and relay the information, brainstorm the solutions they might bring, and look at the bigger, complete picture of the challenges and opportunities in Sembalun.

The last day of the workshop was the highlight of Phase I; it is the presentation day!

Representatives from UNESCO Jakarta, TWA, and DMO Sembalun were invited to be the juries for the first presentation. Despite the short amount of time and a lot of information to digest, all the teams successfully presented the problem identification and connecting them with a structured pathway solution, nice and clear.

UNESCO Water Resilience Challenge 2021 – Phase I is just the beginning. Continuing to Phase II of the Challenge, each team will undergo online mentoring sessions with the experts and mentors from 11 October to 11 November. A final round of Phase III will take place in mid-November 2021.