Mangrove forest needs better

Two against the sea: Two mangrove trees are swamped by piles of garbage in the so-called protected mangrove forest in Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta. JP/Desy Nurhayati
Two against the sea: Two mangrove trees are swamped by piles of garbage in the so-called protected mangrove forest in Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta. JP/Desy Nurhayati

Piles of garbage seem to be a common sight around the Angke Kapuk protected mangrove forest in the North Jakarta coastal area, despite the efforts of several environmentally friendly groups.

These groups, which include NGOs and private companies, hope to conserve the 44.76-hectare forest through replanting, but are challenged by overgrowth and pollution.

In some areas along the coastal forest, newly planted mangroves have been swept away by floods or waves.

"This area was replanted in June last year by a group of high school students. It was clean before a huge wave swept away the trees and brought the garbage here," said Siti Bariyah, a guard in the area.

"They *the students* carried out the replanting well. They cleaned up the rubbish before planting 200 seedlings here, and the trees grew nicely. It's a shame the area is now full of rubbish again."

To protect the trees from being eroded by waves, there are bamboo fences installed along the coastline, but the fences collapse whenever the waves strike.

"We clean up this area often, but it takes time to remove the debris," Siti said.

She said there used to be regular maintenance and replanting by the government, but now it increasingly falls on private companies and other voluntary groups to take care of the area.

"We hope there will be volunteers willing to tidy up this area soon," she said, adding the students' parents had also promised to restore the area after they managed to collect enough money.

Since last year, there have been several private companies jointly replanting the area as part of their corporate social responsibility program, as denoted by boards at the forest entrance.

Each company usually plants between hundreds and thousands of seedlings at once.

Saut, a forest ranger who lives in a nearby residential area, said the companies' representatives occasionally visited the forest to monitor the area they had planted.

"Some companies regularly distribute maintenance funds to the forestry agency, but there are also some others that only plant and then leave without notice."

"As far as I know, the maintenance is still partly financed by the forestry agency, although there are companies that regularly pay for it," said the forester, who has been working in the area for around 20 years.

He said it took four to five years for a mangrove to reach maturity, and that there should be routine upkeep to prevent weeds from overgrowing and blocking the mangrove.

"We should weed the area at least once a month, or else the mangroves will be strangled by the more vigorously growing weeds."

The protected forest stretches along nearly 5 kilometers from Muara Angke, Pantai Indah Kapuk to Kamal, North Jakarta.

The forest is separated into two parts by the Cengkareng Drain River.

The east part of the river comprises 16.26 hectares of forest along 2.1 kilometers, while the west part encompasses 28.5 hectares along 2.2 kilometers.

There are three monitoring towers and three guard posts, as well as three containers to collect garbage, according to the forestry agency's official website.

To get to the forest, people can pass through the Pantai Indah Kapuk housing complex and go about 800 meters to the north from Pantai Indah Kapuk Hospital located inside the complex.

The forest can also be reached via a 10-minute boat trip from Marina Beach in Ancol recreational park to the Cengkareng Drain pier.

Although there are still several polluted spots, the efforts to conserve the coastal mangrove forest have significantly improved, according to Nyoto Santoso, executive director of the Institute of Mangrove Research and Development.

"I think the conditions have greatly improved. There are many replanting campaigns every year, and thus there is less land available for replanting.

"Since the replanting is already sufficient, we should now focus on preserving the trees."

He added conservation efforts taken by the forestry agency were now better than in previous years.

"They did not even have a monitoring post back then, but now they have."

He said it would take a long time to revitalize the forest, including expanding the area to 63 hectares.

"Currently, there have only been 3 or 4 hectares of expansion."

He recommended the construction of walls along the coast to break waves, as well as nets to collect garbage brought by the waves.

To raise preservation awareness, some environmental organizations in the city provide technical assistance for volunteers taking part in replanting the mangrove forests, including the Jakarta Green Monster organization.

"We usually recommend the planters provide stocks of seedlings, as many as half of the total seedlings they have planted, so that they can replant the seedlings whenever the first planting fails," said Hendra Aquar, from the Jakarta Green Monster.

"We also supply seedlings that can grow faster in order to be more efficient."

Ahmad Safrudin, from the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), said the growth of the mangrove forest in the coastal area was further challenged by the short supply of brackish water, which is more saline than plain water, but less saline than seawater.

"Mangrove can grow well if it receives an appropriate supply of salt water combined with plain water."

"I noticed mangroves in several parts of the seashore have already been eroded, and there has not been enough replanting there."

Nyoto suggested the area should be properly prepared before planting mangroves by considering the factors that could hamper the growth, including the supply of water, as well as the possibility it might be easily damaged by waves or floods.

"We should monitor the growth at least between six months and one year after we plant it, depending on the rate of growth.

"After the plant matures, it will take less effort to preserve, except to remove weeds."

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