Keeping Promise for Mangrove
Nickel mining in East Halmahera is damaging the mangrove ecosystem and the livelihoods of local fishermen. It is adding to the destruction of mangrove forests in Indonesia.
THE irony of Indonesian environmental protection policy is now visible in the waters of Moronopo, East Halmahera, North Maluku. While President Joko Widodo is calling for world leaders to increase green coverage, mud is covering mangrove forests there. The cause: mining of nickel ore by state-owned company, Aneka Tambang (Antam).
The sediment has appeared because an Antam subcontractor acted carelessly. Mud spread and burst through a dike, then flowed down the river into the sea. Now the view from Tanjung (Cape) Moronopo is a sad sight. Mud has covered the mangrove trees that were planted decades ago and has damaged the coral reef. The sea around Moronopo is yellow. Even fishermen have lost their livelihoods because there are no more fish.
The recovery is proceeding slowly. The North Maluku environment service has only got as far as evaluating the impact of the mud. Nobody has been held responsible. The mining is still continuing, meanwhile the impact of the sedimentation is affecting other mangrove forests along the East Halmahera coastline.
The government should have anticipated this tragedy from the beginning. A similar incident occurred in 2012 in Mabapura village, an area near to Moronopo Cape. Mud waste from nickel ore mining by Antam also spread and caused damage to the village coastline. However, no efforts were apparent to stop the same thing from happening again.
Even protests by local people were ignored. When in 2016, researchers from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture showed that the level of nickel in the waters of East Halmahera was approaching danger levels and was affecting the maritime ecosystem, once again, the government closed its eyes.
There are four government institutions that should take responsibility for preserving mangrove forests: the ministry of environment and forestry, the ministry of maritime affairs and fisheries, the Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency and the local provincial government. However, there seems to be no coordination between them.
The incident at Moronopo will have an impact on the reduction of mangrove forest coverage in Indonesia, which is already at thousands of hectares every year. According to the environment ministry, in 2015 they were around 3.49 million hectares of mangrove forests, or around 19 percent of the global total. However, around 1.82 million hectares is now in critical condition.
The Indonesian Mangrove Conservation Foundation even estimates that the area of mangrove forests in May 2020 had fallen to 3.2 million hectares. This rate of destruction exceeds the ability of the environment ministry to rehabilitate mangrove forests, which is only a few hundred hectares per year.
This damage must be stopped immediately. The maritime affairs and fisheries ministry says that the mangrove ecosystem is a key component of the Indonesian economy because it contributes Rp40 trillion every year to the fish farming sector. Mangrove forests also store three gigatons of carbon like other forests. This means that mangrove plays a key role in mitigating the effects of global warming.
This is why it is important to hold President Joko Widodo to the promise he made at the Leaders Summit on Climate held virtually on April 22 this year. As a nation with one of the largest areas of tropical forest, Indonesia, according to Jokowi, is serious about controlling climate change. But this promise will be nothing more than a dream given the government’s program at present.