Photos: Where once were mangroves, Javan villages struggle to beat back the sea
A #mangrove forest once surrounded this village on Java’s northern coast. That was before the woods were clear-cut to make way for shrimp and fish farms. The new industry improved the local economy; residents could finally afford the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The bounty days were soon to vanish. The mangroves’ decline exposed Mangunharjo to massive erosion. In less than a decade, it wiped away the fishponds and almost sank the village.
Nowhere are mangroves vanishing faster than Indonesia. A century ago, they covered 4.2 million hectares (16,200 square miles) of the archipelago country’s coastline. Today that figure stands at 3 million hectares. Most of the deforestation has occurred in the last half century; Java alone has lost at least 70 percent of its mangroves during that period. CIFOR reports that 40 percent of that loss is due to the “blue revolution” – the explosion of aquaculture, especially shrimp farming, in the last three decades.
Mangroves are crucial in the fight against climate change. Champions of carbon sequestration, they retain up to five times more carbon than rainforests. The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes mangrove-specific goals and targets; Indonesia too has committed to halting their loss.