Posted by: Hendra Siry | 10 February, 2009

Last Mangrove Forest Losing Battle Against Urbanization

Amid the constant hum of heavy traffic from the adjacent Pantai Indah Kapuk estate, the Muara Angke Nature Reserve, Jakarta’s last mangrove forest, is screaming silently for its very existence.

Ben Saroy, the head of the DKI Jakarta Nature Conservation Agency, said he believed the forest could be gone within 15 years.

“[The Muara Angke Nature Reserve] cannot actually be called a conservation area because it is too polluted,” Saroy said. “It is not a healthy place for plants and animals to grow.” The reserve, located in North Jakarta, was originally established as a nature park by the Ministry of Forestry in 1939, when the total area of mangrove forests along the Jakarta coast was estimated at 8,000 hectares.

Jakarta’s mangrove forests have now dwindled to 170 hectares, of which 25 hectares is occupied by the nature reserve. The park lost its battle against developers within just a few years after 1998, when the area’s status was changed from “nature park” to “nature reserve” in the unsuccessful hope that human intervention could save the forest.

In 2007, the department again tried to attract interest in preserving what was left of the forest by establishing the Muara Angke Nature Reserve Center for Education, Conservation and Research. “We cannot expect the forest to stay just as it is, so it was better to make use of it [for educational and research purposes],” Saroy said. “It gives people a chance to help preserve Jakarta’s last mangrove forest.”

After most of the original forest was cut down to give way to new housing areas, the next threat to the forest, which also serves as a sanctuary for 83 bird species, was domestic waste. Garbage finds its way to the reserve through the Ciliwung River, and much of it gets stuck among the mangroves.

“The river brings six to eight tons of trash every day,” Saroy said. “The volume of trash started to increase after squatters started settling upstream on the banks of the river, which also carries trash from other small rivers in Jakarta, Banten and West Java.” A fishing village on one side of the nature reserve is another source of waste problems, he said.

Hendra Aquan Michael of Flora and Fauna International-Indonesia said garbage arrived in almost every form.

“Last year, we found a refrigerator among the trash,” he said. “The sight of a floating sofa, even dead animals such as dogs and goats, is not a strange experience any more, especially during the rainy season.” Hendra said that the reserve needed the proper equipment to handle the garbage problem.

“It is very unlikely that garbage could be cleared every day,” Hendra said. “It would be a never-ending task for the people here.”

The waste already poses a major threat to the local biodiversity. Ady Kristanto of Jakarta Green Monster, a local community group dedicated to the forest’s conservation, said the garbage kept many birds from breeding in the area. The Javan Coucal, known locally as Bubut Jawa, is endemic to Indonesia, and is believed to have a current population of only 800. The bird inhabits lowland shrub communities and wetlands, particularly mangrove forests.

Years ago, the population of Javan Coucals flourished in big numbers in the reserve, but in the whole of last year, only four of the red-winged birds were seen.

Mochammad Indrawan, president of the Indonesian Ornithologists Union, said the Javan Coucal population in the park has dwindled “because the loss of habitat and the reserve’s garbage problem has prevented [the bird] from engaging in mating and breeding activities.”

Source: The Jakarta Globe – January 22, 2009
By Fidelis E. Satriastanti


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