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Mangrove restoration to safeguard Sembilang National Park

  • Ansyor Idrus

    The Jakarta Post

Banyuasin, South Sumatra | Tue, October 7, 2014 | 10:27 am
Mangrove restoration to safeguard Sembilang National Park River walk:: Visitors have to walk through the bridge during low tide to reach the national park. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)" border="0" height="341" width="512">River walk:  Visitors have to walk through the bridge during low tide to reach the national park. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

Sembilang National Park in South Sumatra, home to diverse species, is under threat. Each year, its eastern coast bordering the Bangka Strait is exposed to abrasion as deep as 15 meters, while fish pond activity is eroding the coastal area.

It’s a long journey to reach the park from the provincial capital, Palembang. After an hour’s drive to Jembatan Simpang, it takes another hour and half by boat along the Bungin River to reach Sungsang River terminal in Banyuasin Regency, then another two-hour trip overland to reach the park.

The trip’s agenda that day was to survey the park’s coastal zone restoration project by growing mangroves.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided funds and training for the park management and fishpond operators to preserve the habitat for the area’s flora and fauna.

Along the road leading to the park’s seedling nursery center, replanted mangroves create lush greenery on the park’s coastline, serving as a barrier to sea waves responsible for the abrasion.

Head of Sembilang National Park Syahimin said the project had restored 200 hectares of the park’s coastal zone. Underway since 2010, the project is expected to finish in 2015.

JICA has also helped ecosystem restoration in the national parks of Bromo Tengger Semeru (East Java), Mount Ciremai (West Java), Manupeu Tanah Daru (East Nusa Tenggara) and Mount Merapi (Yogyakarta and Central Java).

The project also involves people living in the Sembilang area who run fishponds.

JICA Chief Advisor Hideki Miyakawa revealed that thousands of hectares of Sembilang’s coastal zone are still waiting to be restored. The park covers 202,896.31 ha with about 87,000 ha of pristine mangroves.

“Degradation has mainly been because of fish ponds. But the breeders will abandon this zone within 20 years. So we should conduct restoration from now on,” said Miyakawa in fluent Indonesian.

Miyakawa suggested the planting of mangrove species other than Rhizophora Apiculata and Rhizopora Mucronata, which are cheaper and easier to grow but prone to insect attacks. “Various species should be grown so that when Apiculata is invaded by insects, there are still resistant ones,” he says.

The 200 ha already restored served as a pilot project in which technical guidance was provided for the mangrove rehabilitation effort. According to Miyakawa, the restoration cost Rp 15 million (US$1,228) per ha, totaling Rp 3 billion for the 200 ha, excluding the cost of participants’ accommodation and monthly honorariums.

Seed of hope:: Selamet Riyadi shows mangrove seedlings ready to be planted at the national park’s coastal area. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)Seed of hope:  Selamet Riyadi shows mangrove seedlings ready to be planted at the national park’s coastal area. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

A resident joining the project, Selamet Riyadi, 55, said illegal fishpond activity had caused damage to the park’s coastal area and the problem has been worsened by the abrasion coming from sea waves from the Bangka Strait, scraping away 15 meters from the shoreline annually.

“We’re virtually racing with the waves. Mangrove planting is the best solution for conserving the natural habitat at Sembilang park,” he added.

Selamet lives alone in a cabin by the bank of the Barong Kecil River, which empties into the strait. He works for 20 days with 10 days off to see his family in Jambi. Besides his hut is a nursery of different mangrove seedlings.
Into the wild:: Boat passes through Barong Kecil River within the Sembilang National Park area in Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

River walk:  Visitors have to walk through the bridge during low tide to reach the national park. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

Sembilang National Park in South Sumatra, home to diverse species, is under threat. Each year, its eastern coast bordering the Bangka Strait is exposed to abrasion as deep as 15 meters, while fish pond activity is eroding the coastal area.

It'€™s a long journey to reach the park from the provincial capital, Palembang. After an hour'€™s drive to Jembatan Simpang, it takes another hour and half by boat along the Bungin River to reach Sungsang River terminal in Banyuasin Regency, then another two-hour trip overland to reach the park.

The trip'€™s agenda that day was to survey the park'€™s coastal zone restoration project by growing mangroves.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided funds and training for the park management and fishpond operators to preserve the habitat for the area'€™s flora and fauna.

Along the road leading to the park'€™s seedling nursery center, replanted mangroves create lush greenery on the park'€™s coastline, serving as a barrier to sea waves responsible for the abrasion.

Head of Sembilang National Park Syahimin said the project had restored 200 hectares of the park'€™s coastal zone. Underway since 2010, the project is expected to finish in 2015.

JICA has also helped ecosystem restoration in the national parks of Bromo Tengger Semeru (East Java), Mount Ciremai (West Java), Manupeu Tanah Daru (East Nusa Tenggara) and Mount Merapi (Yogyakarta and Central Java).

The project also involves people living in the Sembilang area who run fishponds.

JICA Chief Advisor Hideki Miyakawa revealed that thousands of hectares of Sembilang'€™s coastal zone are still waiting to be restored. The park covers 202,896.31 ha with about 87,000 ha of pristine mangroves.

'€œDegradation has mainly been because of fish ponds. But the breeders will abandon this zone within 20 years. So we should conduct restoration from now on,'€ said Miyakawa in fluent Indonesian.

Miyakawa suggested the planting of mangrove species other than Rhizophora Apiculata and Rhizopora Mucronata, which are cheaper and easier to grow but prone to insect attacks. '€œVarious species should be grown so that when Apiculata is invaded by insects, there are still resistant ones,'€ he says.

The 200 ha already restored served as a pilot project in which technical guidance was provided for the mangrove rehabilitation effort. According to Miyakawa, the restoration cost Rp 15 million (US$1,228) per ha, totaling Rp 3 billion for the 200 ha, excluding the cost of participants'€™ accommodation and monthly honorariums.

Seed of hope:: Selamet Riyadi shows mangrove seedlings ready to be planted at the national park'€™s coastal area. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)Seed of hope:  Selamet Riyadi shows mangrove seedlings ready to be planted at the national park'€™s coastal area. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

A resident joining the project, Selamet Riyadi, 55, said illegal fishpond activity had caused damage to the park'€™s coastal area and the problem has been worsened by the abrasion coming from sea waves from the Bangka Strait, scraping away 15 meters from the shoreline annually.

'€œWe'€™re virtually racing with the waves. Mangrove planting is the best solution for conserving the natural habitat at Sembilang park,'€ he added.

Selamet lives alone in a cabin by the bank of the Barong Kecil River, which empties into the strait. He works for 20 days with 10 days off to see his family in Jambi. Besides his hut is a nursery of different mangrove seedlings.
Into the wild:: Boat passes through Barong Kecil River within the Sembilang National Park area in Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)Into the wild:  Boat passes through Barong Kecil River within the Sembilang National Park area in Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra. (JP/Ansyor Idrus)

 

The park'€™s management, in cooperation with JICA, has built a 600m-mangrove trail to make it easier for visitors to observe the mangroves already planted. Each mangrove species bears a label with its name and plant description.

The mangrove trail is teeming with birds. Crab nest holes around the roots of mangroves are a common sight.

Snakes can sometimes be found looping mangrove trees. Deeper into the parkland are swamps and a secondary peat forest abounding with wildlife.

Among the animals roaming the park are otters, wild cats, Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, deer and honey bears.

Resident bird species include oriental darters, milky storks, lesser adjutant storks and several migratory birds moving from Siberia to Australia.

Most fish breeders at the park have settled there since 1995. A participant of the JICA restoration program, Mohammad Taher, 45, said around 200 families had moved from Sungai Burung village, Dente Teladas district in Tulang Bawang regency, Lampung. They had previously also operated fishponds in Lampung.

He claimed they were forced to leave by a large company that built fishponds in their village.

The declaration of Sembilang as a national park in 2003 made Taher and his peers anxious, still traumatized by the past eviction.

'€œFortunately we didn'€™t receive such treatment. Park personnel met with us to discuss the best way of ensuring our future,'€ recalled Taher. He later joined the restoration project on a monthly salary while continuing his fish breeding business.

'€œAs a temporary solution, ditches are dug on the sides of fishponds and mangroves are planted in the middle. They can still breed fish and the restoration program continues,'€ said first assistant to the Banyuasin Regent, Husnan Bhakti.

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