Hundreds of hectares of mangrove forests on the north coast of Cirebon regency, West Java, are damaged due to illegal logging over the past five years. Similar damage was reported on the south coast of Cilacap regency, Central Java.
The damage in Cirebon is due to illegal logging by low-income local residents. Mangroves in Cilacap have been cut down for conversion into charcoal by local industries. A third front against mangrove forests was opened recently when, amid a kerosene shortage, low-income residents took to cutting down the trees for firewood.
“One hundred hectares have been damaged in the past five years,” said Yoyon Suharyono, coordinator of the Labor and Environment Foundation. “The worst damage has occurred on Losari beach, which has had 50 hectares affected. The rest is on Gebang, Mundu and Kapetakan beaches.”
Yoyon said the illegal deforestation of mangrove forests had been increasing since the government raised fuel prices in 2005.
“As poor people could not buy kerosene, they turned to the mangroves, which are quite a good source of firewood,” he said. am concerned that the kerosene scarcity in Cirebon will result in further damage to the mangrove forests on the north coast.”
The price of kerosene has shot up to between Rp 4,500 and Rp 5,000 per liter compared to the suggested retail price of Rp 2,950 per liter.higher kerosene price will further damage the mangrove forests,” Yoyon said.
“The damage to the mangroves in Cirebon began in the 1980s when there was a shrimp farming boom. Many people cut down the mangrove forests to make way for shrimp ponds.”
Illegal logging in Cilacap is also growing at an alarming rate. Forest rangers of state forest firm Perhutani’s Cilacap office and the Segara Anakan Conservation Center in a recent crack down on illegal deforestation in Segara Anakan found hundreds of hectares of damaged mangrove. The wood is then sold to local charcoal producers. The rangers seized a truck-load of charcoal during the raid.
Cilacap Perhutani deputy head Herman Firmansyah told the media that ascertaining the extent of the damage was difficult as some of the mangroves were difficult to reach, citing one mangrove forest that was two hours away by speed boat. forests in Cilacap, which in total span around 13,000 hectares, are overseen by a number of relevant agencies, but rangers have so far faced difficulties in tracing the looters,” Herman said last week. He said the mangroves were valuable and protected assets as well as fish breeding grounds.will not tolerate the thefts,” he added.
Chief of rangers at the Cilacap chapter of the Natural Resources Conservation Center, Dedy Supriyanto, said it was difficult to track down the culprits as many of them were backed by local security forces.
“We have been observing them for a long time and have found strong indications that they are backed by corrupt security personnel. We are very concerned about this matter,” Supriyanto told The Jakarta Post. He said the number of timber thefts in the Mount Selok forest resort area in Cilacap had grown at an alarming rate since 1999, adding that 120 hectares of teak trees were cut down per year on average.
“No less than 5,000 hectares of forest in Nusakambangan have been damaged,” he said.
Source: The Jakarta Post – January 16, 2009 By Nana Rukmana & Agus Maryono