Millions of seedlings die too soon: Experts

by Agnes Winarti on 2013-06-12

Environment experts and activists acknowledged that millions of mangrove seedlings planted in the 1,373.5 hectare Ngurah Rai mangrove forest in southern Bali may have died too soon.

A lack of care after planting, as well as the accumulation of plastic waste and other pollutants from the nearby harbor, the landfill site and upstream rubbish killed the seedings.

“The newly planted mangrove seedlings in the Ngurah Rai forest have a survival rate of about 10 percent. In some areas, like Tanjung Benoa, the survival rate for these seedlings is even lower, only about 0.5 percent, while in Tuban it is only about 1.5 percent. Out of 1,000 seedlings, only 10-15 survive and become trees,” environment researcher in the center for sustainable development studies at Udayana University, Ketut Gede Dharma Putra, told Bali Daily on Tuesday.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a discussion held at the Mangrove Forest Management Office (BPHM) on Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai, Suwung, Denpasar. The discussion was held to introduce an initiative to establish a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) in Bali for the preservation and development of mangroves, expected to obtain funding and technical support from the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) based in Yokohama, Japan.

UNU-IAS has so far launched RCE in three locations across Indonesia: Bogor (under the Institute of Agricultural Bogor), Yogyakarta (Gajah Mada University) and East Kalimantan (Mulawarman University).

“Although mangroves have a strong ability to tolerate pollutants, these trees have some limits,” said Dharma Putra.

Department head for water resource management at the Marine and Fisheries School of Udayana University, I Wayan Restu, similarly pointed out that in recent years, the planting of mangrove seedlings in Ngurah Rai had not been as successful as the 1992-1999 replanting program, which was financially supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“In the last eight to 10 years, the seedlings have deteriorated in terms of quality. There could be around 5 million seedlings that died too soon,” Restu said, citing the Rhizopora species, commonly planted along coastlines, was apparently less suitable to the environmental condition of some parts of Ngurah Rai forest.

“In my opinion, the national ‘One Billion Trees’ planting program requires some correction. We cannot just plant and leave, we have to make sure those trees grow properly. We also need to start diversifying the biota in the habitat, so that we not only see the mangroves grow, but also mangrove crabs, echinoderms, birds and fish,” said Restu.

Dharma Putra acknowledged that successful planting could only happen if there was active participation by local communities and better handling during planting and aftercare to would allow the seedlings to grow properly.

Forum Peduli Mangrove Bali (Care for Bali Mangrove Forum) leader I Wayan Muka, who recently established the forum by gathering the community leaders of Tanjung Benoa, Benoa, Jimbaran, Kedonganan and Tuban to perform mangrove forest clean-up activities, underlined: “Thousands of mangrove seeds have been planted, but why have we never really seen the garden that we’ve planted? Community-based efforts are a must and I believe forest clean-ups are a concrete effort to save this forest,” said Muka.

Program section head at BPHM, Estiwening Saraswati, acknowledged that due to limited human resources, the office was overwhelmed by the overflow of trash from upstream. She pleaded for more active engagement by the surrounding communities in the effort to save the mangroves.

“We only have three waste collectors to collect the trash stuck around the mangroves. The trash will never stop so long as the locals continue to dump waste into the rivers. I think a form of awig-awig [traditional regulation], just like the one applied in Nusa Lembongan, is required here in Denpasar,” said Esti.

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