Meta: The West Papua Mangrove Rehabilitation Program Is One Way To Utilize Mangroves, Prevent Mangrove Damage, And Empower National Economic Recovery.
Did you know that West Papua has Indonesia’s largest mangrove forest area? According to Conservation International Indonesia (CII) data, mangroves cover approximately 1.5 million hectares in the land of Papua island. Meanwhile, West Papua alone accounted for 482,029 hectares of Indonesia’s total mangrove forest area of 3.49 million hectares.
Unfortunately, roughly 6% of them were damaged. To address this, the Indonesian government organized a community-based mangrove rehabilitation program. Let’s examine the potential of mangroves in the land of Papua and how this rehabilitation program can help to revitalize the Papuan economy.
West Papua’s Mangrove Potential
The mangrove ecosystem serves as a carbon storage system, an abrasion barrier, and a source of community welfare in coastal areas. Despite its size, the mangrove forest there has not been fully utilized. This issue is primarily because local communities rely on other natural resources.
Several researchers from the University of Papua and Balitbangda West Papua participated in the 2019 Mangrove Expedition to investigate the utilization of the mangrove. According to the report’s findings, coastal communities generally use the mangrove forest ecosystem to find forest products such as fish, shellfish, crabs, sea cucumbers, and shrimp to meet their daily needs.
It indicates no large-scale use of mangroves in the expedition area, which includes nine villages and five districts on West Papua’s coast. In fact, the local communities can obtain numerous benefits from expanding mangrove use, including:
Ecotourism is one of the ways we can utilize mangroves. Tourists can enjoy activities such as birdwatching and observing the life of traditional communities around the mangrove vegetation while admiring the expanse of mangrove forests.
Wood for Export
Several community groups in coastal villages have used mangrove tree wood to support houses and churches. Mangrove wood can also have added value when produced and processed on a large scale.
PT Bintuni Utama Murni Wood Industries (BUMWI) on Amutu Island is one of the producers of mangrove wood in West Papua. This timber company converts mangroves into export-ready materials. One of its functions is to be used as a fuel for heating in the winter.
Products for SMEs
In other parts of Indonesia, local mangrove farmers have used mangroves as processed products for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). For example, in Mangunharjo, Semarang. The Mangrove Lestari Farmer Group processes mangroves into food, syrup, and batik dye.
Mangrove Research Center
The use of mangroves can also be for educational purposes. One of them is the establishment of a mangrove research center.
Mangrove Rehabilitation Program
The use of mangroves is unquestionably possible if we can preserve the mangrove ecosystem in its sustainability and balance. Since the community still relies on coral reefs for a living, this leads to the destruction of mangroves.
The impact of coral reef exploitation can result in large waves or waves crashing into land or beaches, damaged marine ecosystems, and stressed marine animals migrating to other locations. As a result, mangrove rehabilitation is one method of overcoming this.
The Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency (BRGM) has provided government assistance to Klamana Village to preserve the mangrove ecosystem. BRGM’s mangrove rehabilitation program directly involves the community in a 50-hectare mangrove area to plant mangrove seedlings. This action has helped change people’s perceptions of mangroves as a source of additional income and an opportunity to improve their economy.
The Long-term Goal
As is well known, the pandemic has negatively impacted the economies of several regions. On the other hand, this mangrove rehabilitation program aligns with the National Economic Recovery (PEN) goals during the pandemic.
This program invites residents to build cages or ponds for crabs in addition to planting mangrove seedlings. Some crabs eat and breed in the mangrove roots. If we utilize mangroves as tourist attractions, tourists can purchase mangrove crab souvenirs later.
The long-term goal of the mangrove rehabilitation program is to establish this additional source of income. It is because mangrove ecosystem restoration can provide extraordinary benefits for life.
What Happens If Mangroves are Damaged?
Damaged mangrove forests will have the following effects:
- Beach abrasion; the coastline will quickly erode and gradually narrow.
- The mangrove-dwelling fish and animals such as shrimp, crabs, monkeys, frogs, turtles, and others will decrease.
- When a cyclone or tsunami comes, there is no damper because the mangrove root systems can break the waves.
- Detrimental effects on seagrass and coral reef ecosystems.
- Decreased clean air because mangroves can absorb up to 34 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
The hope is, of course, that the seeds planted through the rehabilitation program will be maintained by the community and grow ultimately, resulting in even more marine life and an increase in residents’ income.
Furthermore, this mangrove rehabilitation program reflects the Indonesian government’s efforts to mitigate global climate change. Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia, has also stated that mangrove rehabilitation is necessary to prepare for global climate change. He hopes to restore 600,000 hectares of mangrove forests in Indonesia by 2024, including West Papua.