Indonesia: Smallest most important Mangrove forest threatened by fresh water & pollution

Recent flooding in Jakarta is posing a threat to one of only two
remaining mangrove forests in the city, a wildlife official said on
Thursday. The Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve in North Jakarta, only 25
hectares in size, has been partially swamped by an overflowing
Ciliwung River, turning its usually brackish wetlands a shade fresher
than is ideal for the estuary species. “That’s why you see all the
trash and plastic bags lying around,” said reserve employee Wawan,
pointing at plastic bags tangled in mangrove limbs.

Normally the
wetland and the river are two separate, adjacent bodies of water, but
they merged after two days of heavy rain this week. Overflow from the
city’s largest river has also brought harmful solid and liquid waste
to gather around mangrove roots, said Hendra Michael Aquan of
environmental group Fauna and Flora International, making it “hard for
the mangroves to breathe.” Apart from the flooding, the river’s
polluted waters regularly frustrate efforts to expand the forest’s
area. “All the mangroves we try to plant die within the first few
weeks because of the pollution,” Hendra said. Established in 1998, the
Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve houses the largest collection of
mangroves in Jakarta.

It is also home to several species of birds and
the long-tail monkey not found in natural habitats elsewhere.
Mangroves act as a natural barrier against surging waves, offering a
buffer zone to rising sea levels and protecting surrounding areas from
floods by absorbing and retaining river water. According to the
Indonesian Forum for the Environment, the city’s mangrove forests have
fallen in total area from 1,400 hectares to just 45 hectares in the
last 20 years, a loss that means 6.6 million cubic meters of water in
Jakarta rivers are left unabsorbed. Despite its importance, the
smallest reserve in Indonesia is relatively unknown. With a humble
gateway barely marking its entrance, few area residents ever visit.
“That’s OK,” said Erik, a reserve employee. “We don’t necessarily want
visitors to flock here. It’s a sanctuary, not a zoo.”

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Deane RimermanJanuary 28th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Amid the constant hum of heavy traffic from the adjacent Pantai Indah Kapuk estate, the Muara Angke Nature Reserve, Jakarta’s last mangrove forest, is screaming silently for its very existence.

Ben Saroy, the head of the DKI Jakarta Nature Conservation Agency, said he believed the forest could be gone within 15 years.

“[The Muara Angke Nature Reserve] cannot actually be called a conservation area because it is too polluted,” Saroy said. “It is not a healthy place for plants and animals to grow.”

The reserve, located in North Jakarta, was originally established as a nature park by the Ministry of Forestry in 1939, when the total area of mangrove forests along the Jakarta coast was estimated at 8,000 hectares.

Jakarta’s mangrove forests have now dwindled to 170 hectares, of which 25 hectares is occupied by the nature reserve.

The park lost its battle against developers within just a few years after 1998, when the area’s status was changed from “nature park” to “nature reserve” in the unsuccessful hope that human intervention could save the forest.

In 2007, the department again tried to attract interest in preserving what was left of the forest by establishing the Muara Angke Nature Reserve Center for Education, Conservation and Research. “We cannot expect the forest to stay just as it is, so it was better to make use of it [for educational and research purposes],” Saroy said. “It gives people a chance to help preserve Jakarta’s last mangrove forest.”

After most of the original forest was cut down to give way to new housing areas, the next threat to the forest, which also serves as a sanctuary for 83 bird species, was domestic waste. Garbage finds its way to the reserve through the Ciliwung River, and much of it gets stuck among the mangroves.

“The river brings six to eight tons of trash every day,” Saroy said. “The volume of trash started to increase after squatters started settling upstream on the banks of the river, which also carries trash from other small rivers in Jakarta, Banten and West Java.” A fishing village on one side of the nature reserve is another source of waste problems, he said.

Hendra Aquan Michael of Flora and Fauna International-Indonesia said garbage arrived in almost every form.

“Last year, we found a refrigerator among the trash,” he said. “The sight of a floating sofa, even dead animals such as dogs and goats, is not a strange experience any more, especially during the rainy season.”

Hendra said that the reserve needed the proper equipment to handle the garbage problem.

“It is very unlikely that garbage could be cleared every day,” Hendra said. “It would be a never-ending task for the people here.”

The waste already poses a major threat to the local biodiversity. Ady Kristanto of Jakarta Green Monster, a local community group dedicated to the forest’s conservation, said the garbage kept many birds from breeding in the area. The Javan Coucal, known locally as Bubut Jawa, is endemic to Indonesia, and is believed to have a current population of only 800. The bird inhabits lowland shrub communities and wetlands, particularly mangrove forests.

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