Over the past 20 years, the Gorontalo region on the island of Sulawesi has been hit by climate change. The start of the change was sparked by a crisis involving major existing rivers and the introduction of Daerah Aliran Sungai (DAS) or watersheds. These are essentially basins where rainfall collects and drains into an outlet like a river. According to the records of the Watershed and Forest Protection Management Agency (BPDAS-HL), of the 520 watersheds in Gorontalo, only 27 are currently functioning. The remainder are in a critical condition and have been damaged by local residents not maintaining the upstream wells. As a result, rivers in those areas experience droughts when the dry season arrives and turbid river water during the rainy season.

One example of the impact caused by the river crisis in Gorontalo is noticeable at Lake Limboto—a downstream area of ​​23 rivers spread across the province. In 1932, the lake covered ​​8,000 hectares and had a depth of up to 30 metres, but now both its size and depth have become increasingly alarming. According to the head of Bappeda or the Agency for Regional Development, Budianto Sidki, Limboto Lake currently has a depth of only 2.5 meters and an area of ​​2,537 hectares and it is projected that the lake will have dried up by 2025. Siltation (when the water becomes dirty due to the build up of mineral particles) in the lake is just one of the effects of climate change that is starting to be felt in Gorontalo. 

In addition to siltation, the threat of seasonal change also continues to haunt the community. In 2015, Gorontalo residents experienced the effects of a prolonged drought and changes in the pattern of the rainy season caused failed harvests and difficulties accessing clean water as rivers began to dry up. A similar incident occurred in 2019. Prolonged drought and very little rainfall caused crops to fail and the community in Gorontalo had to bear the brunt of the clean water shortage. This phenomenon was caused by climate change which has haunted the citizens of Gorontalo and those in other parts of Indonesia. The lack of awareness about climate change and the failure by the community to protect nature, forests and sustainable living patterns exacerbates the climate change crisis experienced in the present day.

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Zulkifli Mangkau headshot

Zulkifli Mangkau

Zulkifli Mangkau is based in Gorontalo Province in Sulawesi. After working for a local media company in Gorontalo from 2017 to 2020, he is now a freelance journalist. He also works as a photojournalist and writes about the environment, culture, the economy, health and religious issues.