Villagers of Marunda on the northern coast of Jakarta say that about 20 years ago the edge of Marunda was a thicket of mangrove trees that was so dense they called it a jungle. Today, that mangrove jungle is history. Marunda’s younger generations can only imagine how it was, as there are not many mangrove trees left in their neighborhood.
Most of Jakarta’s mangrove forests have been cleared for fish farming, but also for building developments which green groups say have an even greater environmental impact.
If you take a trip around the Marunda coastal area Marunda, these days you will only find mangrove seedlings, propped up with bamboo stakes. Marunda residents and some organizations which claim to be concerned about environmental issues, planted these mangroves in an attempt to revitalize Jakarta’s dwindling mangrove forest areas.
During The Jakarta Post’s recent visit to the planting area, many mangroves were looking fine and were growing normally, while others were not so healthy and some had not survived. One local resident, Opcin, 49, said that incorrect planting techniques were largely to blame for the deaths.
“The dead mangroves were planted in the sand, which is not the right media for them. They should have been planted in mud,” Opcin said. “Besides this, I found out that they were planted about one-span deep. That’s not right. You should plant them around two-spans deep at least so they are not too vulnerable.
“Mangroves tend to be fragile in their first year. Big waves are not a big deal, as long as the bamboo sticks that support them are built well. The only risk is maybe the goats that wander around the area — they eat mangrove leaves,” he said. He said the residents were grateful because many companies and organizations had planted mangrove trees in the village voluntarily.
“But they sometimes just leave the plants without looking after them. We don’t have time to look after all the trees. We have other things to do. I myself have to take care of my own trees, which I planted in fish ponds,” Opcin said. “We sometimes try to herd goats out of mangrove areas if we are in the planting area,” he said, adding that this was the best the residents could do.
Another resident, Sueb Mahbud, said the local community could not monitor all the mangrove seedlings there.
“Mangrove trees are quite sensitive to movement. They need between two and four years to mature. If I see a mangrove tree leaning over, I will try to fix it. But it’s hard to keep an eye on thousands of mangrove seedlings,” said Sueb, adding that a mangrove tree could grow to more than five meters in height.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) is one among several institutions that have planted mangrove seedlings in the Jakarta coastal area. Walhi always tries to look after the trees they plant, Walhi Jakarta executive director Selamet Daroyni said.
“We have met with the local community and given them Rp 100,000 monthly maintenance money to take care of the mangrove seedlings. The maintenance fee is due for six months, which is the most critical time for the plant,” Selamet said. The mangrove seedling replanting efforts, however, have not all run smoothly.
In another location, Muara Angke, for instance, local fishermen have hampered a designated conservation area by farming shrimp and fishing there. Data from Forestry Ministry in 2007 recorded that fish farmers had cleared approximately 80 percent of the area’s 100-hectare wetlands. The fishermen had removed mangrove trees and their roots to raise milkfish and shrimp. The community should preserve mangrove trees because they bring many advantages, Selamet said.
“Mangrove forest wetlands play a crucial role in slowing the abrasion of beaches, protecting the city from big ocean waves and flooding — and they serve as a nursery for marine life and a feeding ground for a large number of animals,” Selamet said. The forests, he said, also function as green belts, protecting groundwater in nearby areas from salination. He urged the government to set aside around 30 percent of the capital’s northern coastal area as mangrove conservation areas. “We previously requested 70 percent, but after a series of observations, we decided 30 percent was more realistic. It means we hope there will be 10 kilometers of mangrove thickets along the coastline,” Selamet said.
“The government should persuade private companies or owners of coastal areas to take part in this conservation program. “We are also negotiating with North Jakarta administration to provide land that can be designated specifically for mangrove conservation areas.” Selamet said these areas should be owned by the administration so it has full authority to protect the plants.
Source: The Jakarta Post Tue November 4, 2008
By Triwik Kurniasari, Jakarta