Mangroves and Challenges in Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra

Indonesia has around three million hectares of mangrove forests growing along its 95,000 km of coastline, and accounts for 23 percent of all global mangrove ecosystems. Mangrove forests are the most carbon-dense forests in the tropics. In South Sumatra, mangrove ecosystems are found along the province’s east-facing coastline in the districts of Banyuasin and Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI). The area of mangroves in South Sumatra fell from approximately 210,000 ha in 1990 to 176,000 ha in 2019.

Mangrove area in South Sumatra Province (Source: Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 2020)

Banyuasin District covers an area of approximately 1.2 million ha and contains around 130,000 ha of mangroves inside and outside Sembilang National Park.

Mangrove forest cover in Banyuasin District, South Sumatra Province (Source: Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 2020).

Banyuasin lost around 10,000 ha of mangroves from 2014 to 2019. Its mangroves continue to be degraded due to illegal wood harvesting, conversion for agriculture and aquaculture, and livelihood pressures, as local communities are heavily dependent on farming and fishing. In the Tanjung Api-Api area in Rimau Sungsang ward, for example, economic development programmes and the establishment of a new port have focused on enhancing agricultural production with a lesser focus on mangrove restoration. In Sembilang National Park, meanwhile, the threat of vegetation fires and the need to manage community settlements have resulted in mangrove programmes focusing mainly on habitat and biodiversity conservation and protection, with a particular focus on migratory birds and ecotourism development.

Mangrove area in Banyuasin District (Source: Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 2020)

A review of 114 news articles from 14 national websites and local newspapers during 2010–2020 looked at the most frequently discussed mangrove-related issues in South Sumatra Province and Banyuasin District. Issues related to mangroves in Banyuasin District were centralized in two areas: Sembilang National Park and the Tanjung Api-Api Special Economic Zone or Kawasan Ekonomi Khusus, formerly known as the Sungsang Estate. Mangrove-related programmes from various stakeholders focused mainly on the conservation and protection of habitats and biodiversity in Sembilang National Park, with a focus on migratory birds and ecotourism development. Other issues in mangrove areas were management of community settlements inside the national park area, community construction of embankments and problems associated with ecological impacts such as sedimentation. Vegetation fires inside the national park were also frequently reported. In the Tanjung Api-Api area, economic development was the main issue coupled with the establishment of a new port, and various government programmes on enhancing agricultural production.

Cloud diagram of mangrove ecosystem issues in South Sumatra based on news articles and reports in local media

Despite various efforts in the district, a stakeholder consultation process revealed that mangrove degradation continues to be a threat. Although South Sumatra has developed a green growth masterplan for a fire-free and sustainable province, it lacks strategies and action plans to address mangrove ecosystems and communities. Despite stakeholders demonstrating support for action on mangrove restoration, they lack the resources to implement and scale programmes and initiatives at the district level. Stakeholders also highlighted the issue of poverty in coastal communities. Moving forward, interventions to alleviate poverty and drive growth with a sustainability focus should also be directed towards mangroves.

CIFOR-ICRAF Indonesia and partners – Sriwijaya University’s Center of Excellence for Peatland Conservation and Productivity Improvement (CoE PLACE) and the South Sumatra Watershed Forum (Forum DAS Sumsel) – will undertake Participatory Action Research (PAR) to develop locally accepted and sustainable business models, which will eventually allow communities to generate sustainable incomes from mangrove restoration and use in a pilot area in South Sumatra Province.