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Exchanges & Structured Learning

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Lake Toba-Lake Champlain Sister Lakes Technical Exchange

The Lake Toba-Lake Champlain Sister Lakes Exchange is typical of those which LakeNet is now actively supporting. It began when Prof. Dr. Midian Sirait, the founding Chairman of the Lake Toba Heritage Foundation became frustrated with the difficulties of getting the national, provincial and local governments to respond to increasing environmental problems in and around Indonesia’s largest lake:

- A major pulp and rayon mill was cutting mature forests in many parts of the watershed and discharging pollution into the major local river.

- Rapidly growing towns along the lake shore were discharging untreated sewage and municipal solid waste into the lake.

- Operators of the commercial boats on the lake were discharging oil and diesel fuel.

- Water hyacinth plants were spreading along the shores and interfering with fishing.

- Parts of the lake were no longer a safe source of drinking water, and the number of tourist arrivals was declining.

- As a small NGO organized by local leaders, the Lake Toba Heritage Foundation could not begin to tackle all of these problems. In 1995 they began to seek a "sister lake" to work with and selected Lake Champlain, in the northern United States.

Both lakes are large and deep and have a major pulp mill. But there was one important difference--the people around Lake Champlain had won worldwide recognition for their success in developing a comprehensive watershed strategy and lake management plan. The centerpiece of this initiative is an aggressive program to reduce the phosphorus pollution that was destroying the lake and threatening the tourist industry on which much of their economy depended.

In 1996, a sister lakes exchange program was initiated between Lake Toba and Lake Champlain with a visit to Indonesia by Lisa Borre, then coordinator of the Lake Champlain Basin Program. With financial support from governments and businesses in both Indonesia and the United States, LakeNet (formerly Monitor International) coordinated delegations from both lakes which have studied and learned from one another. The delegates have included junior and senior government officials, business and NGO leaders, scientists, educators, environmentalists, and technicians.

A series of increasingly important bilateral Memoranda of Understanding have emerged from the exchanges, including one between the State of Vermont and the Province of North Sumatra. The Lake Toba-Lake Champlain Sister Lakes Exchange was recognized in 1998 by the UN as one of its "Sustainable Development Success Stories."

The sister lakes exchange is ongoing and has been supported by numerous project partners in Indonesia and in the United States. The technical exchange program has been supported by the Council of State Governments, US-Asia Environmental Partnership, US Agency for International Development, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Lake Toba Heritage Foundation and US Environmental Protection Agency.



Council of State Governments Partners Report: Vermont, ECOS Article  (PDF) Interim Project Report. Final. Council of State Governments. 9/30/1997.

Lake Toba Online  Interim Project Report. Final. Sustainable Development International. 1/1/2000.

Lake Toba Watershed Poster  (PDF) Project Report. Final. Stone Environmental Inc.. 1/1/2000.

Lake Toba Watershed Poster - English Text  (PDF) Project Report. Final. LakeNet. 1/1/2000.

Sustainable Development of Sister Lakes Article (731K)  (PDF) Project Report. Final. Sustainable Development International. English. 5/1/1999.

Trip Report Summary: Lake Champlain Delegation to Lake Toba  (PDF) Interim Project Report. Draft. LakeNet (formerly Monitor International). 4/2/1998.

UN Sustainable Development Success Story  (PDF) Interim Project Report. Final. UNDP. 4/15/1998.


Participating Lakes

Toba (Danau Toba)


Participating Organizations

The following organizations are participating in this program:

City of Burlington
Council of State Governments (CSG)
ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP)
Lake Champlain Committee (LCC)
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM)
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
Lake Toba Heritage Foundation - Yayasan Perhimpunan Pencinta Danau Toba (LTHF - YPPDT)
Stone Environmental Inc. (SEI)
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 1, New England (USEPA Region 1)
U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership (USAEP)


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