Investors eye mangrove forests for tourism

by Luh De Suryani on 2013-04-24

Investors and other institutions are interested in managing and developing mangrove forests as tourist destinations, an official confirmed.

Suratman, head of Bali Forestry Agency’s preservation and conservation section, said that two investors had shown interest in managing mangrove forests in southern Bali.

The mangrove areas, which function as important greenbelts for the island, became a hot issue over the last few months when one investor was granted the right to manage a mangrove forest in Suwung, near Denpasar.

The controversy over the provincial administration’s decision to grant this permit has focused people’s attention and awareness on the issues surrounding the importance of maintaining and preserving mangrove sites.

“The news that world soccer star Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo would be declared as the ambassador of the new Mangrove Care Forum in Benoa has already spread widely,” Suratman said.

Various environmental campaigns are to be held in mangrove sites. “There will be two major events related to mangrove preservation and conservation programs. The first will be held on April 26 in conjunction with Earth Day. The second event will be held on April 30 when Ronaldo is expected to come,” Suratman said.

Tommy Winata, famous for his vast Artha Graha business empire, will declare Ronaldo as the ambassador of the mangrove forest.

“We have not yet received any proposal from Artha Graha Group to manage the mangrove site in Tanjung Benoa,” Suratmant said.

The Bali administration has received two proposals to acquire the rights and permits to manage mangrove forests.

The first proposal came from PT Tirta Rahmat Bahari, which already obtained the rights to manage the mangrove forest in Suwung.

The issuance of this permit has sparked severe criticism from Walhi, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, noted academics and individuals who care about the mangrove forests. Walhi filed a lawsuit against the provincial administration and the case is being held at Denpasar State Administrative Court.

The second proposal came from Wanasari fishermen’s group in Tuban. This group has been managing and taking care of the mangrove forest in Tuban, close to the airport, and has built a trekking path and resting places there.

“The administration has frequently asked Wanasari fishermen’s group take the legal steps necessary to make its group a legal body so that it can request a permit to manage the mangrove forest,” Suratman said.

Meanwhile, Agus Diana, secretary of Wanasari fishermen’s group, explained that the group had frequently asked for permission to manage the mangrove forest since 2010.

Despite the administration denying them permission, the fishermen’s group, consisting of around 90 fishermen from Tuban, has already constructed a 250-meter pathway made of bamboo as part of its eco-friendly mangrove tourism program.

“We received support from the state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina to implement the program to protect the mangroves for future generations,” Diana said.

He also said that previously, it had been local fishermen that managed and used the mangrove sites and preserved them as green areas.

“Mangrove forests have become a new attraction as people started to see them from the construction site of the ongoing toll road. In the past, nobody paid attention to mangroves,” Suratman added.

Suratman expected that the mangrove forests of southern Bali could be developed as eco-friendly and educational forests, similar to those in Singapore and Japan.

Based on data from the Bali Forestry Agency, the island has 1,337 hectares of mangrove forest, comprising 610 hectares of protected and conserved forests and 350 hectares for other purposes, including tourism facilities.

There are also 205 hectares of mangrove forests in Tanjung Benoa, which are now being rehabilitated. The government, including the state-owned electricity company, PT PLN, have utilized some parts of the mangrove rehabilitation area for waste processing plants, roads and other public facilities.

There are seven major mangrove forest areas in Bali spreading across five regencies: Ngurah Rai mangrove forest in Denpasar and Badung; Gilimanuk Bay in Jembrana regency; Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan islets in Klungkung regency; and Banyuwedang Bay, Terima Bay, Sumberkima, Pejarakan and Menjangan Island in Buleleng regency.

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