Gafur Abdullah – At the recent G20 summit in Bali, Indonesian President Joko Widodo brought world leaders to the Ngurah Rai Grand Forest Park, a former fish-farming site being converted into a conservation area.
His intent was to showcase climate action taken by Indonesia, home to the world's largest expanse of mangroves.
"I ask G20 members to join in collaboration, to cooperate in real action for green development, inclusive green economic development," Widodo said at the event, adding that Indonesia planned to develop similar mangrove forests in 33 more sites in 2023.
The Bali provincial government assisted Jakarta in revitalizing the Ngurah Rai park, named after local hero Lt. Col. I Gusti Ngurah Rai, killed in action in the struggle against Dutch colonial rule in 1946 at age 29. The rehabilitation was done by the Adhi Karya contracting firm at a cost of 506.9 billion rupiah ($32.4 million).
Like many countries, Indonesia has set ambitious reforestation targets to help meet climate goals, including rehabilitating 600,000 hectares (1.48 million acres) of mangroves by 2024. But in 2021, Indonesia managed to rehabilitate 33,000 hectares (81,500 acres) of mangroves, the nation's peatland rehabilitation agency said in January.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Indonesia's biggest environmental advocacy group, said the government needs to move faster if it is to have any hope of meeting the target.
"A five-fold acceleration is required to reach the ambitious (2024) target, given that mangroves in good condition is only 788,496 ha," Parid Ridwanuddin, the head of Walhi's coastal and oceans campaign, said in a statement after the G20 summit.
Further, Walhi cited numerous issues that worsened Indonesia's mangrove condition.
First, Walhi noted the presence in 2022 of a mining business permit area in 48,400 hectares (120,000 acres) of mangrove forest.
Second, mangrove rehab as attempted by the government clashes with the government's own plans to continue its land reclamation in a number of areas in Indonesia. Walhi noted in 2022 that existing reclamation projects covered 79,300 hectares (196,000 acres) with an additional 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) in the pipeline.
These figures are in a local government regulation document on zoning of coastal areas and small islands in 22 provinces in the country. Much mangrove forest in various coastal areas of Indonesia has been damaged by this reclamation.
A specific case is the reclamation of 85 hectares (210 acres) of the Bali coastline for port facilities that polluted Benoa Bay and destroyed the vegetation in a 17-hectare (42-acre) mangrove forest.
Third, in 28 related documents, only 10 provinces established protection zones and mangrove forest management covering 26,900 hectares (66,470 acres).
Fourth, the Indonesian government has targeted production of cultivated fisheries by as much as 22.6 million tons in 2024. In shrimp in particular as a priority export commodity, the government wants to boost yield from 1.2 million tons in 2020 to 1.5 million tons in 2024.
Fifth, in the 2020 job creation law, also known as the omnibus law, article 5, which regulates geothermal resources, legalizes geothermal mining in waterborne areas. This deregulation law would devastate mangrove forests.
Sixth, massive infrastructure construction such as big-scale ports in Semarang and Jakarta also entail damage and loss of mangrove coverage.
Based on data in 2020 Statistics on Marine and Coastal Resources, Indonesia's mangrove expanse totaled 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres). Only 788,496 hectares (1.95 million acres) or 31.34% were in good condition, Parid said.
At the same time, the government must commit to evaluating the spread of projects that have destroyed and will destroy mangroves in Indonesia, Parid said.
These projects cover reclamation, infrastructure, mining in coastal areas and small islands, among others, the environment advocate continued.
Not only that, the government must revise a number of laws as they inhibit mangrove rehabilitation. Two significant laws for review are the job creation law and the minerals and coal law, both of which legalize mangrove destruction, Parid said.
Walhi assessed that mangrove degradation is exacerbated by the environmental crisis due to development choices and the increasingly severe impact of the climate crisis.
According to Parid, the government does not assign the important task to the Mangrove and Peatland Restoration Agency (BRGM) to evaluate concessions or business permits, particularly in mangroves.
To note, BRGM secretary Ayu Dewi Utari said in a recent talk that Indonesia could lose 26,100 hectares (64,500 acres) of mangroves a year through land conversion due to infrastructure development, aquaculture and illegal logging.
For sure, mangrove damage is mainly caused by environmentally unfriendly pond business activities, clearing for settlements, transportation needs and businesses such as non-ecobased tourism, Gorontalo State University biology researcher Abu Bakar Sidik Katili told Mongabay.
– Adapted by Warief Djajanto Basorie