Indonesia’s ‘Green Belt’ - Mangroves for local and global benefits

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Presiden Joko Widodo bersama Satu Kahkonen, Country Director Bank Dunia untuk Indonesia dan Timor Leste serta para duta besar dari berbagai negara, dalam kunjungan ke Tarakan, Kalimantan Utara untuk meninjau upaya Program Mangrove Nasional Indonesia di lapangan dan menanam mangrove. Foto: Biro Media Sekretariat Presiden Photo: Bureau of Press, Media, and Information Affairs of Presidential Secretariat (Indonesia)

Indonesia is home to 3.36 million hectares of mangroves, over 20 percent of the world’s mangrove ecosystems. While over 90 percent are in good condition, according to the recently launched One Map Mangrove, restoring mangroves is a key element of Indonesia’s ambitious plan to turn more of its land and forest sectors into carbon sinks by 2030, a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.

The National Mangrove Program is an Indonesian presidential priority and aims to rehabilitate 600,000 hectares of degraded mangroves by 2024 and enhance conservation of existing mangroves. The program is conducted by several ministries, led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, with involvement from the private sector and civil society organizations.

Staff from the World Bank’s Indonesia country office were invited to join President Joko Widodo on a visit to Tarakan, an island city in North Kalimantan, along with Ibu Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, and ambassadors from several countries for a two-day visit to view the efforts of Indonesia’s National Mangrove Program on the ground and plant mangroves.

Tarakan is surrounded by healthy mangroves, which provide breeding habitats for seafood and protect people who live nearby from natural disasters. The fish, shrimp, and crab that flourish among the mangroves are renewable natural resources managed by local communities and underpin the local economy, which was once driven by major oil extraction activities.  These mangroves also store vast amounts of carbon, which regulates the global climate, and are home to unique animal species found nowhere else, such as the Proboscis monkey and the Indrawati dolphin. The appeal of this biodiversity is attracting visitors and fuelling a renaissance of nature-based tourism in the area. 

Near Bebatu Village, Tanah Tidung District, accompanied by local authorities, the presidential group reached the mangrove restoration site and planted mangroves. Mangroves had been removed from the site some years ago to make space for shrimp ponds, degrading soil and vegetation, in turn reducing the productivity of the shrimp. The visit revealed the intricate relationship between people and natural resources. Even though critical for people’s livelihoods, mangroves had been removed in the expectation of quick returns from the shrimp trade.  Interestingly, the site was in Indonesia’s protected “forest area” and technically, local communities or individuals were prohibited from removing the vegetation.

The story of this site highlighted the need for a landscape approach to mangrove management. This means taking a holistic approach – not only restoring mangroves through planting, but also ensuring that existing mangroves are managed sustainably through incentives to local communities, enforcement of regulations and spatial planning. This entails helping local communities derive greater benefit from mangroves, including through access to capital, training, strengthened land tenure, and potential payments for blue carbon. A landscape approach also involves ensuring that local communities are empowered and lead mangrove management efforts and avoiding contradictory policy goals such as promoting mangrove conservation and but also opening new areas for aquaculture. The World Bank’s economics of mangrove analysis suggested economically viable solutions. A cost-benefit analysis showed that while both conservation and restoration of mangroves are cost-efficient, that conservation is almost twice as much cost-efficient as restoration.

The visit also demonstrated the need to follow best practices in mangrove restoration to ensure long-term results and cost-efficient investments, as past mangrove restoration efforts around the world have shown high failure rates. Best practices include promoting natural recolonization of degraded areas when seeds and propagules are available, selecting the right place for restoration, choosing the right mix of mangrove species, since each one is adapted to a particular level of salinity and submersion, and proper handling of seeds. Restoring healthy ecosystems is a complex endeavour, and the world is still learning about it, particularly in coastal systems such as mangroves.

The World Bank is supporting the government’s National Mangrove Program through the Mangrove for Coastal Resilience project that is under preparation and aims to strengthen the management of mangroves in target areas and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities. The World Bank also provides technical assistance, including for mangrove restoration planning and monitoring of progress in restoration. The institution is also ready to support the government in exploring potential payments for the blue carbon expected to be generated by conserved and restored mangroves.

Successful implementation of the National Mangrove Program will produce significant benefits for Indonesia and the world.  Healthy mangroves support the livelihoods of coastal communities, protect them from natural risks, feed sustainable fisheries, maintain significant stocks of carbon, and provide habitat for rich biodiversity.  Protecting Indonesia’s vast mangroves will not only provide long-term benefits for local communities but will contribute substantially to global efforts to address climate change. 



Satu Kahkonen

World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste

André Rodrigues de Aquino

Lead Environmental Specialist

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