Indonesia: Two decades for broken coral reefs to recover - Ministry

Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post 11 May 18;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has announced that broken coral reefs covering 1,020 square meters near Pari Island of Thousand Island regency, which were damaged after cargo ship Ghanda Nusantara 15 rammed into them on Saturday night, will take over 20 years to recover.

Iksan, a ministry official who conducted a survey at the site of the incident, told The Jakarta Post recently that the majority of the damaged area consisted of hard coral — also known as stony coral — which takes a long time to grow.

“It takes 20 years or more for such kinds of coral reefs to recover to their normal condition, before the incident took place,” Iksan said, adding that the ministry would study the results over the next several days to determine total losses from the incident.

The ship’s owner, as regulated in Law. No 32/2009 on environmental management and protection, will have to pay for the losses, with the money being used for restoration of the coral reefs.

Article 2 of the law states that every person or institution proven to have damaged environment is obliged to pay a certain amount of compensation.

The Thousand Island Police said separately that the ship, owned by the Transportation Ministry, reportedly rammed into the coral reefs near the island at around 7:15 p.m. on Saturday.

The ship, intended to sail from Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan to Tidung Island of Thousand Islands regency, was stuck near Pari Island due to bad weather. It was swept away by strong waves and finally left stranded atop the pristine coral reefs.

“Six crew members aboard have been evacuated by Pari Island residents, with help from officials from the fire and rescue agency,” said Thousand Islands Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Viktor Siagian. The ship’s crew were then brought to the police to be questioned.

Local residents urged the government to quickly move the vessel from the site to avoid further damage to the coral reefs.

One of the local residents, Ahmad Taufik, 36, said the coral reefs played a significant role in boosting the island’s tourism. Pari Island is among the top tourist destinations in Thousand Islands regency, along with Tidung and Bidadari Islands.

Ahmad added that coral reef damage from ships occasionally occurred in the island’s waters. He, together with other residents concerned with marine protection, would replant the coral reefs using compensation from the owners of the ships that caused the environmental damage.

“At least one similar incident happens in the island’s waters every year, but the ships that caused the damage have never been as big as the [Ghanda Nusantara] ship,” Ahmad told the Post via phone. The Ghanda Nusantara has a weight of around 92 gross tons.

Environmental group Greenpeace urged the government to finish the valuation soon to figure out how much the ship’s owners had to pay.

It could be a great loss, said Greenpeace Southeast Asia oceans campaigner Arifsyah Nasution, reflecting on a similar incident that had occurred last year in Raja Ampat waters in Papua.

“Seeing the case at Raja Ampat, each square meter of damage had to be compensated with up to US$1,200,” he said.

On March 4, British cruise ship Caledonian Sky ran aground in Raja Ampat waters, West Papua, destroying nearly 13,000 sqm of coral reef.

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