Communities want to manage mangrove forest
Kadek Bobby Susila has been actively taking part in demonstrations by an environmental NGO to oppose the Bali administration giving rights to a private company to manage a mangrove forest.
The 28-year-old is the only resident of Suwung Kauh — where the mangrove forest is located, who has joined the protest.
Bobby wished the mangrove forest could be managed by local communities like other natural tourist sites, such as Tanah Lot in Tabanan, the Monkey Forest in Ubud, or the mangrove forest in Jungut Batu, Nusa Ceningan.
“But the local community here don’t understand how to manage it,” he said sadly.
He joined the protest of his own accord because he had learned from personal experience about the importance of preserving mangroves to protect the environment.
When the mangrove forest on Serangan island was affected by reclamation, his house was flooded with sea water. “My room was inundated,” he recalled.
After he graduated from high school, he volunteered for five years tasked with planting mangrove trees and caring for them as part of the JICA conservation project.
“We planted thousands of trees and checked which ones could grow,” said Bobby, who works in a hotel in Legian.
Several weeks ago, he joined a hearing with the legislative council, urging the provincial administration to revoke the license issued to the private company.
He was moved by the fact that the coastline that used to be full of mangrove forest had been converted into houses and shops.
The controversial mangrove forest, located just off Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai, is the largest mangrove forest in Bali. Many local people and tourists visit the site, where they can explore the forest using a wooden 1.4 kilometer walkway.
Activists grouped in Kekal Bali (the working committee of Bali’s environmental advocacy), have urged the administration to revoke the license. On Wednesday, they staged another protest against the governor, protesting that he had accused them of being used by a certain party.
“We challenge the governor to prove this accusation publicly,” said Wayan Gendo Suardana from Walhi Bali. “Let the governor audit Walhi to prove the accusation.”
The activists said the administration’s decision to issue a permit to the private company, PT Tirta Rahmat Bahari, to manage the forest neglected the principles of good governance.
They said it would be better if the mangrove forest was managed by the traditional village administration. In addition to being popular for recreation, mangroves are important to prevent erosion and minimize the impact of tsunami.
The mangrove forests need to be preserved amid the increasing development in Bali.
The Forestry Ministry said there were only seven mangrove forests throughout Bali, the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest being the largest one, as well as others located in Gilimanuk, Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan, Banyuwedang Bay, Terima Bay, Sumberkima, Pejarakan and Menjangan Islands.
Environmentalists and students who form the Bali working committee on environmental advocacy (Kekal Bali) strongly reject the governor’s decision to issue a permit to a private investor to manage 102.22 hectares of mangrove forest in Suwung, Denpasar. They are asking the governor to cancel the plan.
“The Bali governor must revoke the permit because it will only destroy the environment,” the spokesperson of Kekal Bali, Wayan Adi Sumiarta, said recently.
Governor Made Mangku Pastika officially issued the permit in June this year, giving rights to PT Tirta Rahmat Bahari to manage the forest for 55 years.
The 102.22 hectares affected by the permit is part of south Bali’s 1,375 hectares of mangrove forest.
The investor has been given permission to build 75 temporary wooden gazebos for accommodation and a restaurant in the area, which will also be opened up for fishing and water sports.
The government should protect the mangrove forest as it served as the last defense to protect the island’s coastline from threats such as erosion or strong waves.
The mangrove forest was also needed to control seawater intrusion and to reduce pollutants and maintain the quality of the seawater. Mangrove forests were also the habitat of many kinds of fauna and marine biota.
“Mangrove forests have a huge role to play in CO2 absorption, able to absorb much more CO2 than any other forest, and are vital on the island amid the poor quality and quantity of forest remaining. The total area of the island, Bali currently only had 22 percent forest cover.
Bali was badly in need of at least 8 percent more forest, as the ideal quantity of forest cover was a minimum 30 percent of the total area.