Indonesia doubles down on efforts to restore endangered mangrove ecosystem

Luwu and North Luwu regencies are the biggest contributors to mangrove damage in the South Sulawesi region. Based on data from 24 districts and cities in South Sulawesi in 2021, total mangrove area was at 45,464.5 hectares, however 22,550.9 hectares were in a damaged condition. Luwu Regency contributed 7,771.75 hectares to the damage while North Luwu contributed 6,429 hectares.

Therefore, to save the endangered mangrove ecosystem, which is critical to the well-being of the environment, the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) of South Sulawesi has drafted a regional regulation (ranperda) related to good mangrove management, which has received a good response from stakeholders, including activists and local residents.  They hoped when the draft regulation is passed, the degrading mangrove will finally have a chance to rehabilitate.

A monitor lizard among the mangrove.

According to Rio Ahmad, director of Blue Forests Foundation, in the last few decades, the mangroves in South Sulawesi experienced rapid degradation, from an area of 110,000 hectares in 1994 to 12,278 hectares now.  Nation-wide, Indonesia used to have 5.5 million to 6 million hectares of mangrove forest, but in 2021, the national mangrove map showed only 3.3 million hectares remaining.

Rio said there is a potential to rehabilitate 133,000 hectares of mangrove in South Sulawesi. Many conservation efforts have been carried out, especially at the community level and results were visible, especially in Lantebung Makassar and the Tanekeke Takalar Islands.  He hoped the draft mangrove regional regulation would take into account the different unique characteristics of each region and come up with a customized management plan.

Hidayat, head of watershed management, forest and land rehabilitation of the South Sulawesi Forestry Service, said of the 12,000 hectares of mangrove forest in South Sulawesi, only 1,700 hectares are included in the forest area, both in protected forest areas and production forests. He hoped this draft regulation can help to designate more mangrove areas.

A mangrove forest near modern skyscrapers.

Siti Masniah Djabir, head of management and spatial planning, Sea, Coastal and Small Islands Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of South Sulawesi, welcomed the draft regulation but hoped more input and feedback can be given to the drafting authority so that it can be as comprehensive as possible.  

Masniah added mangrove degradation is also caused by pollution, illegal garbage disposal, and the conflicting programs between the central and regional governments. Importantly, Masniah said one challenge is the ignorance of the local community which played a big part in the mangrove destruction.

“We have to promote mangrove conservation using counselling and education. For example, many loggers do not feel guilty cutting down mangroves because they thought their ancestors planted the mangroves. Logging of mangroves for firewood is common in Takalar Regency. Also, locals think cooking fish using mangrove wood will make the fish tastes better than when using other woods.”

There are now only about 11,000 hectares of mangroves left in South Sulawesi, mainly because of mangrove land turning into ponds.

Yusran Nurdin Massa, environmental technical advisor at Blue Forests Foundation, said the draft regulation is an important step to protect the remaining mangrove ecosystems in South Sulawesi while improving governance and efforts to restore damaged mangroves. He said in the last three decades, 62 percent of damage to mangroves in South Sulawesi was caused by the conversion of land into ponds. Therefore, mangrove conservation cannot be separated from improving pond management.

He added the draft regulation should explicitly include a moratorium on the conversion of land to other uses in order to control and stop damage to the remaining mangroves.

“It is difficult to regulate the cessation of logging because in some places, the community is very dependent on mangrove wood as a livelihood support, or even as the main source of income, for example at the Tanakeke Islands, where many depend on mangrove wood for firewood and charcoal making. Cases like this need a customized approach,” he said.

The charcoal industry using mangrove wood is growing rapidly in line with increasing demand from food stalls in Makassar, South Sulawesi. Photo credit: Blue Forests Foundation

All photos credit: Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani, Indonesia Correspondent, is a former journalist with a lifestyle magazine. He enjoys sharing his writing with the public, and finds happiness when his content can help readers advance their careers.

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