Renew: Volunteers plant mangrove seedlings in Teluk Naga in Tangerang, Banten, on Friday. Their work is part of a program to protect and expand the region’s 500 remaining hectares of coastal mangrove forests, which covered over 10,000 hectares just several decades ago. (JP/Multa Fidrus)
Residents of Teluk Naga, one of the poorest areas of Tangerang, Banten, are working under a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program to preserve the environment along their coast.
The program, organized by state-owned oil company PT Pertamina and the Environment and Landscape Development Program of Trisakti University, involves the residents of the villages of Muara, Lemo and Tanjung Pasit in planting mangrove seedlings to rehabilitate damaged forests.
Pertamina and Trisakti began the CSR program last year, sending researchers to investigate environmental damage in the area and sending trainers to educate local residents on the importance of environmental protection.
On Thursday, the CSR program launched the Ecowisata Kampung Mangrove, or eco-tourism mangrove village, initiative, in the villages on Thursday.
Under the initiative, residents will take the lead in rehabilitating and preserving their local mangrove forest, according to Arri Gunarsa, the director of Trisakti’s environment and landscape development program.
“The program aims at building the awareness and capability of the coastal residents to mitigate and adapt themselves to the impact of climate change,” Arri said.
“Since the program started in August, residents have planted 75,000 mangrove seedlings stretching along 82,297 meters of coast along the fish and shrimp farms, riverbanks, roads and all the way down to the beach.”
Arri said that the program had changed the perceptions of residents on the environment, motivating them to work hard to plant mangrove seedlings.
“The residents currently have a supply of 45,000 seedlings ready for planting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Supriyatno, head of Muara village, said he that was excited after Muara was appointed as the model for the eco-tourism site.
“This area will become a new learning center,” he said. “We invite the public to come here to get to know and to closely observe the mangrove forest and the ecosystem.”
During the launch of the initiative on Thursday, dozens of local schoolchildren took part in trash can painting contest and a clean-up program for the beach.
According to the researchers who surveyed the villages, environmental damage along the area’s northern coastline had been uncontrollable, ranging from Teluk Naga to the neighboring district of Sepatan.
Vast swaths of the mangrove forest along 51 kilometers of the coast of Tangerang have been depleted over the years, putting the residents at increased risk of tsunamis and rising sea levels, according to the researchers.
Erosion has continued to eat away at the land, with the coastline receding by 300 meters. Dozens of hectares of fish and shrimp farms have vanished.
Commenting on the regency’s damaged coastline, Uyus Setia Bakti, the coordinator of Banten Environmental Care Foundation (Yapelh), attributed forest destruction to a lack of commitment from the Banten regency administration for conservation programs.
“These conditions have been exacerbated by the economic activities by locals, such as uncontrolled sand quarrying along the beaches and the illegal chopping down of mangrove trees for commercial purposes,” he told The Jakarta Post.
According to a survey conducted by a local environmental group, the mangrove forests in the villages of Kohod, Keramat, Karang Serang, Margamulia, Tanjung Kait and Tanjung Burung villages have already been destroyed.
“Many of the programs that we previously ran to prevent the mangrove forests from suffering more severe damage appear to have been done in vain because there has been no supports from the local administration,” Uyus said.
While a report from the Tangerang Environmental Management Agency (BPLH) said that mangrove forests covered 10,000 hectares of the regency just a few decades ago, a Yapelh survey conducted in 2011 said that only 2,000 hectares mangrove forests were left in Tangerang.
However, environmental activists have said that the situation has gone from bad to worse. The forest has since receded to 500 hectares and is wholly situated in an area controlled by state forestry company PT Perhutani.
Uyus thanked Pertamina and Trisakti for the CSR program to educate local residents and to rehabilitate the mangrove forest.
“Many residents did not understand the importance of mangrove forest preservation and converted them into commercial areas, such as fish and shrimp farms,” Uyus said.