Yudhoyono`s call for mangrove protection goes unheard

Yudhoyono`s call for mangrove protection goes unheard

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (right, wearing glasses) and footballer Christiano Ronaldo (left) chat during the planting mangroves at Ngurah Rai Forest Park, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Bali, on Wednesday (June 26, 2014). (ANTARA/Nyoman Budhiana)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Yudhoyonos repeated calls for protecting mangroves in Indonesia seem to have fallen on deaf ears as their destruction continues without restraint.

On various occasions, President Yudhoyono have repeatedly called for the protection of 3.2 million hectares of the national mangrove forests that play a crucial role in preventing coastal abrasion and act as buffer against tsunamis.

One such appeal was made by the president at a mangrove-planting event, "Save the Mangroves, Save the Earth", in Telaga Waja, Tanjung Benoa, on the Indonesian island resort of Bali in June 2013.

"Let us conserve our mangrove forests. Our land is vast, reaching 130 million hectares, while the mangroves cover 3.2 million hectares," Yudhoyono had said at the event.

The president had urged his countrymen to plant, cultivate, and take care of the mangroves so that they grow well and protect the environment.

But his calls went unheard as mangrove forest areas in the country continued to decline every year because of coastal reclamation and land conversion for various purposes, noted a non-governmental organization.

"In 1982, Indonesias mangrove forests covered 3.2 million hectares, of which 1.7 million hectares continued to be cleared for different purposes until 2014," Secretary General of Peoples Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara) Abdul Halim remarked here on Thursday.

Initiated by the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Kiara is a non-profit organization working for the cause of fishermen and those living along coastal regions and small islands.

Abdul noted that in the past, Indonesias mangrove forests spanned 3.2 million hectares, or 22 percent of the worlds total area of mangrove forests, with a large source of biodiversity.

"But, the unrestricted development of fish ponds for aquaculture along the coastal areas has led to the disappearance of millions of hectares of mangrove forests," Abdul emphasized.

The other factors that have led to the depletion of mangrove forests include the expansion of palm oil plantations by clearing mangroves, the deprivation of coastal areas for fish processing industry, and reclamation.

According to a new report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), mangroves are destroyed three to five times faster than the average rate of forests loss, thereby causing emissions that can cost billions of dollars annually.

"Mangroves are also threatened by climate change, which can result in a further loss of 10 to 15 percent by 2100," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was quoted as saying by the UNEP recently.

Mangroves are found in 123 countries and more than 100 million people worldwide live within 10 kilometers of large mangrove forests, allowing them access to fisheries, clean water, and protection from erosion and extreme weather events, among other benefits.

The UNEP report says that despite the mounting evidence that supports the benefits of mangroves, they remain one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.

Referring to the data collected by Kiara so far, Abdul Halim stated that as many as 30 districts or municipalities are currently reclaiming coastal areas, which will lead to the destruction of mangrove forests and will eventually deprive the coastal area dwellers of their living space.

Referring to the data, Abdul remarked that considering the functions and benefits of mangroves, the disappearance of mangrove forests could cause potential losses amounting to some Rp30 trillion per year.

"Therefore, the government should spend at least Rp60 trillion to revitalize mangrove forests across the country," he added.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,504 islands with a total coastline of 95,181 kilometers, is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges or intense tropical storms linked to global warming.

So, the Kupang city administration in East Nusa Tenggara province will gradually rehabilitate the mangrove forests along the beach in the coastal city.

Kupang Mayor Jonas Salean said last Thursday that mangrove forests were damaged over the past ten years due to the absence of any government protection.

"With help from other city officials, we planted 520 mangrove seedlings in the Oesapa beach on the occasion of the habitat day commemoration," Jonas said, adding that the city administration planned to preserve the mangrove forests and protect the ecosystem.

The characteristics of Kupang development, which is based more on services and trade, have necessitated the opening of the beach area for hotel and restaurant projects in a bid to promote the tourism industry here.

"The project will certainly affect the existence of the mangrove forest, but the project owners are required to restore the condition to protect the ecosystem," he revealed.

Meanwhile, deputy for beach protection of WWF Indonesia for East Nusa Tenggara Zakarias Atapada has urged the government to continue its efforts to protect the environment.

"The development of the tourism industry must not damage the environment," Zakaria stressed.

He remarked that the development of the tourism industry in Kupang has encroached the beaches, destroying the mangrove forests and damaging the ecosystem.

In Bangka-Belitung (Babel) province, some 70 percent of the total 122,000 hectares of mangrove forests were damaged by tin mining activities, said the head of the local forestry agency, Sukandar.

"Mining activities along coastal regions also damage mangrove forests," he stated in the provincial city of Pangkalpinang.

Floods and erosion can hit Babel any time because of the damage to its mangrove forests, and that can affect the livelihood of the local fishing community.

Sukandar noted that the mangrove forest damage occurred in every district of the province and they needed to be restored and preserved.

The management of the mangrove ecosystem as a renewable resource and watersheds from upstream to downstream should be an integral part of the spatial planning of provinces, districts, and cities.