Indonesia: Mangroves in S. Sulawesi face uncertain future

Andi Hajramurni Jakarta Post 22 Mar 13;

South Sulawesi is facing massive mangrove forest destruction as over the past 30 years deforestation and pollution have taken their toll and damaged almost 90 percent of the total original areas.

The Mangrove Action Project (MAP) Indonesia recorded that the damage had reached 89 percent, citing that the worst damage took place in the 1980s.

The deforestation rate of mangrove forests has reached 2.2 percent annually. Currently, the province only has around 22,353 hectares of mangrove forests.

“Before 1980, South Sulawesi had 214,000 of mangrove forest hectares by 1991 only 23,000 hectares remained,” said MAP Indonesia project director Ratnawati Fadillah during a seminar on mangrove rehabilitation and aquaculture development in Makassar.

According to Makassar’s Hassanuddin University’s Forestry School dean Baharuddin Nurkin, mangrove forest destruction in South Sulawesi had been affected by several factors, with the main factor being forest conversion into fish farms, around 70 percent, followed by housing and logging for charcoal as well as for the paper and pulp industries.

The conversion of mangrove forests into fish farms was as a result of a government policy in the early 1980s that instructed local fisheries and maritime affairs offices to carry out intensification of shrimp cultivation, which was then a major export commodity and earned the state a huge amount of money.

However, the policy had not been followed up by good planning, so much so it led to a surplus of shrimp and around 30 percent of the 70 percent of mangrove forests, which had been converted into shrimp farms, were abandoned because of the huge production costs and low profits.

The mangrove forest in Tanakeke Island, Takalar regency, South Sulawesi, in the early 1980s, was 1,770 hectares and after conversion, for idle and failed fish farms, only 500 hectares remain.

Baharuddin said in the 1970s, more than 30 species of mangrove trees grew along the Rongkong River banks in North Luwu. According to him, the worst mangrove forest destruction took place in North Luwu, East Luwu, Wajo and Takalar regencies and Makassar municipality.

A mangrove expert from Hasanuddin University’s Marine Science School, Amran Saru, said that the community suffered the most from mangrove destruction, especially the fishing and coastal communities, because they were the ones who shouldered the brunt of the impact.

Mangrove destruction leads to coastal erosion and the destruction of spawning places for a number of organisms and marine biota, including fish, shrimp, crabs and shellfish. Other impacts include seawater intrusion, which pollutes local wells with salty water.

Amran claimed that restoration and reforestation efforts had been carried out but could not compete with the pace of destruction. The success rate of mangrove forest restoration in South Sulawesi is only 26 percent annually, which is higher figure than the national rate of only 10 percent.

He added that the government must issue mangrove forest utilization and aquaculture management regulations and carry out extensive restoration and reforestation programs in order to save the mangrove forests.