Indonesia

Indonesia has one-quarter of the world

INDONESIA

Selasa, 19 Mar 2013 23:50 WIB

Author

Rumondang Nainggolan KBR68H

Indonesia

Indonesia, mangrove police, Brebes, Central Java

Indonesia has one-quarter of the world’s mangrove forests, but it’s losing them at a rate of 6 percent a year.

The government said the mangrove forest destruction has reached an alarming level.

With damage to 70 percent of the mangrove forests, it’s vital to preserve what’s left and replant more.

A village in Brebes, Central Java has found a unique way of protecting their mangrove forests.

Romli is 60 years old, but he says he’s fit and ready for his new role.

“I’m now a member of the mangrove police, I’m doing this for free to protect my village from abrasion.”

Romli is part of the Pandansari Village’s mangrove police force in Brebes, which goes out on patrol every day.

They’re local people recruited to protect the village’s mangrove forests, says Rusjan, head of the Mangrove Sari Community.

“We have six teams of mangrove police. We carry out routine patrols to guard the coast from people trying to steal wood from our mangrove forests. We also have a sea patrol; we’re using three boats now. Every time there’s a report of illegal logging from our villagers, they let us know using their cell phones. Everything is faster now.”

They also have a strict rule which applies to all the villagers.

If anyone is caught cutting trees, they will be fined up to 1,000 US dollars or sent to prison for 2 years.

But if they desperately need the wood they can cut the trees as long as they replant 20 more.

According to local people, until the 1980s, the hamlet of Pandansari used to be a fertile and prosperous area.

The village was even celebrated and awarded for its thick mangrove forests.

But everything changed following a large storm wave. The village is now badly affected by abrasion and the intrusion of sea water.

Farmers like Supardi have lost their income.

“When the coast line is going closer to the farm, sea water will intrude. The soil will become salty and we can’t plant onion anymore. Our welfare was drastically changed. Some of our children couldn’t continue to high school because the fee is too expensive. Many of us lose our livelihood. The abrasion had a huge impact to the people here.”

Some of the mangrove forests were also cut down to make way for farming shrimps - which sold for a high price in the market, says former village head, Rusjan.

“The shrimps didn’t grow well due to pollution and there were abrasion because more and more sea water coming to our village. The shrimp farms were not protected by mangrove forests because the trees were cut down for the farms.”

Within the last 20 years, almost 1,000 hectares of the village land has been badly affected by abrasion.

In 2009, the locals formed the mangrove police to protect the remaining forests – and to save their livelihoods.

But it’s not easy to educate people about the importance of mangroves, says Rusjan.

“They don’t believe that mangrove can stop the abrasion because the growths of the trees are slow. A 5-year-old mangrove is only 2-3 metres high. So people were not convinced and instead asking for the government’s help to build a wave prevention system.”

In 2011, the Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta, designated Brebes a ‘green belt’ area. To mark the occasion 80 thousand mangrove seeds were planted in one of the villages.

The area was chosen because it has the biggest fish ponds in Central Java and the largest population of farmers in the province.

Now around 1 million mangrove trees have been planted in the areas affected by abrasion.

Mangrove policeman Trisno Dinoto says the change is impressive.

“In the past the sea water intruded. Previously the sea water came up to our village. At high tide, the water sometimes reached up to our knees, inside our homes and on the streets. But for four years now, we haven’t seen any sea water in our village.”

The mangrove police also helps to protect the forests from thieves.

“The neighbouring villages, they don’t care about our problems and the environmental destruction. They are fishermen who get home empty-handed, come to our mangrove forests and cut some of them down. Mangrove wood is good for charcoal. People can sell 1 cubic metre of mangrove wood for 30 US dollars. And you can take out up to 2 cubic metres at a time.”

Rusjan says that people are becoming more aware all the time and that the village will benefit in the long run.

“Anyone who wants to cut the trees will ask for our permission, even the ones that has fallen down. They will say that they need let’s say 3 logs for something and then we remind them to replant the trees. So they know now.”


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