Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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The missing islands of Pulau Seribu (Indonesia)

The article below is published in
Economic and Business Review Indonesia No. 262, April 23, 1997 pp. 38-39.

Fig. 1 Ubi Besar map from 1901 to 1982. Human impacts have already led to the disappearance of nine of the 1000 islands (Pulau Seribu).

One by one the real Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu) in Jakarta Bay are disappearing!

Pulau Seribu has the misfortune to lie immediately offshore from a conurbation of 20 million people and the combined effects of land-based pollution and sedimentation are wreaking havoc in the fragile reef ecosystem of Jakarta Bay.

In response to the problem in 1995, UNESCO, with scientists from P30-LIPI and ITI, conducted a review of what has been happening to the Bay's coral reefs. The review repeated a similar survey which had been conducted 10 years earlier, allowing scientists from the three organisations to see how much the islands and reefs had been transformed during that period of rapid economic and industrial growth in Jakarta.

The results of the second survey indicated that the condition of the coral reefs in Pulau Seribu is continuing to decline, to the point that some islands have totally disappeared (see Fig. 1). Part of the problem of coral reef degradation is beyond our direct control, in that global warming and the El Nino effect have led to changed rainfall and runoff patterns and longer "dry-seasons" in Indonesia.

Another part of the problem, however, is not beyond our control. Many of the causes of erosion and reef degradation are related directly to human behaviour. These are the so-called ‘anthropogenic perturbations’ that affect the structure and health of the coral reef ‘community’. They include archaic waste disposal systems and unsustainable resource management practices which lead to:

The worsening condition of coral reefs thus goes hand in hand with the unsustainable utilisation of resources by local fishermen and specimen collectors, and by the developers of private resorts, as well as the improper or inadequate disposal of waste by industry and local government authorities.

The spiraling economic cost of reef degradation suggests that the improved management of coral reefs may be in Indonesia’s best economic interest in the long term.

Protection of coral reefs is often presumed to conflict with economic development. However an economic study by the World Bank on the economic value of Indonesian Coral Reefs (1996) clearly indicates that the unsustainable exploitation and management of coral reef leads directly to considerable economic losses in the longer term. The divergence between short-term profits to private individuals, and long-term costs to society can reach a ratio of 50:1 (The World Bank, 1996). [H. Cesar 1996. The Economic Value of Indonesian Coral Reefs. World Bank Environmental Economics Series.]

Table 1 illustrates this conflict between private profit and public loss by showing the estimated benefits to individuals against the losses to society for each square kilometer of coral reef left unprotected. Blast fishing, for example is estimated by the World Bank to yield a net benefit to individual fishermen of US$ 15,000 per km2 of reef. This compares with net losses to society of US$ 86,000 per km2 of reef (from sustainably managed fisheries), US$ 9,000 - 193,000 (in coastal protection), and US$ 3,000 - 482,000 (from tourism).

(present value; 10% discount rate; 25 y. time-span; in US$ ,000; per km2)

  Net Benfits
to Individuals
Net Losses
to Society
Function Total Net
Fishery Coastal
Tourism Others1/ Total Net Losses
Poison Fishing 33 40 0 3-436 n.q. 43-476
Blast Fishing 15 86 9-193 3-482 n.q. 98-761
Coral Mining 121 94 12-260 3-482 672/ 176-903
Sedimentation-logging 98 81 - 192 n.q. 273
Sedimentation-urban n.q. n.q. n.q. n.q. n.q. n.q.
Overfishing 39 109 - n.q. n.q. 109

Ranges indicate: sites of 'low and high' value in terms of tourism potential and coastal protection value.
n.q.: not quantifiable
1/: 'Others' includes loss of food security and biodiversity values (not quantifiable)
2/: Forest damage due to collection of wood for lime processing is estimated at US$ 67,000.

Table. 1 Total net benefits and losses associated with the destruction of Coral Reefs. From The World Bank Environmental Economics Series (1996).

Under its mandate to protect the coral reefs in the South East Asian region, UNESCO provides a point of convergence for local people, governments, scientists and NGOs in their efforts to save Pulau Seribu. With its specialist expertise in coastal management, and its focus on public education and awareness, UNESCO has been able to help local communities and NGOs to find and implement their own solutions through better communication and cooperation.

In cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Science (P3O - LIPI), UNESCO recently organized a "Workshop for the Young Generations of Fishermen and Teachers" on Pari Island which brought together fishermen, collectors, NGOs, teachers and students.

Participants learned that, in order to counteract their loss of earnings from declining fish stocks, some inshore fishers have turned from traditional fishing methods to destructive, non-sustainable methods using dynamite (blast fishing) and cyanide to catch live fish for the restaurant and ornamental fish trade.

It is thought that most of these fishermen are employed or financed by wealthy businessmen. They are also employing the most destructive and non-sustainable of fishing techniques, in areas where local authorities apparently have neither the resources nor the power to stop them.

The UNESCO-LIPI workshop provided a forum for fishermen, NGOs and local people to exchange problems and perspectives and to work towards common objectives, and a shared vision for the effective and sustainable management of the resources of Pulau Seribu.

Suggestions to come out of the workshop included:

By training local people in the sustainable use, management and protection of coral reefs, and by providing advice on alternative sources of income for fishermen, and on the use of non-destructive fishing techniques, UNESCO and its partners aim to change the face of coral reef management in Pulau Seribu.

Fig. 2. Pari Island, Fisherman collecting seaweed. Sustainable seaweed farming could become an important activity generating much-needed alternative income (Photo by Y. Wibowo)

Abundance of crustaceans as an indicator of anthropogenic stress in Pulau Seribu.

Stomatopoda crustaceans are particularly well suited for inclusion in large-scale, rapid coral reef assessments. Reef-flat stomatopods are ubiquitous, abundant, and diverse in the Indo-Pacific region, and their populations are easily measured. As stomatopods are an important component of the abundant mobile cryptofauna of coral reefs, study of their population can offer an insight into reef processes. Stomatopod abundance, diversity and recruitment show a strong negative correlation with concentrations of hydrocarbons and certain heavy metals in sediments, and provide a useful index of contamination by sewage and agrichemical runoff (Steger and Caldwell, 1993) [R. Steger and R.L. Caldwell, 1993. Reef flat stomatopods. in: Long term assessment of the oil sill at Bahia Las Minas, Panama, Synthesis report. US department of Interior, New Orleans, pp 97 - 119]. Studies of population structure among Stomatopods emphasise the role of marine pollution as an important stress factor on corals on the reefs of Pulau Seribu.

Fig. 3 Stomatopod abundance at each sample site in Jakarta Bay and Pulau Seribu. Each bar is subdivided to show individual species’ abundance. Reef sites are ranked on the distance from Jakarta (adapted from Erdmann and Sisovann, 1996) [M. V. Erbmann and O. Sisovann 1996. Distribution and abundance of reef-flat stomatopods in Teluk Jakarta and Kepulauan Seribu. In: Study No 10, Proceeding of UNESCO Workshop in Pulau Seribu (in Press)]. Data collected during UNESCO Monitoring Activities, Pulau Seribu 1995.


Plastic is everywhere!

In May 1985 and September 1995, UNESCO organized two surveys on the state of the coral reefs in Pulau Seribu. One of the parameters measured was the amount of long term non-degradable or slowly degradable litter along the strand-line of the islands.

From this it is inferred that ‘most’ of the plastic bags do not reach the islands, but sink to the sea bottom beforehand. The blanket of plastic over the sea bottom of the inner Thousand Islands must be phenomenal! It is easy to imagine what effect this might have on future coral growth and regeneration.

Who is responsible for this tide of plastic?

It is certainly not just the tourists who visit the Thousand Islands, though they may play their small part. It is primarily the people of greater Jakarta and West Java. It is also the city’s refuse disposal system which refuses to stem the tide of plastic waste discharging from the rivers and canals which flow through metropolitan Jakarta (N. Willoughby et al., 1996) [N.G. Willoughby, H. Sangkoyo, B.O. Lakaseru, 1996. Beach litter: an increasing and changing problem for Indonesia. In: Study No 10, Proceeding of UNESCO Workshop in Pulau Seribu (in Press)].

A monitoring activity carried out by UNESCO in September- December, 1996, examined solid waste and the water quality in Jakarta’s rivers and called for a ‘joint and urgent effort’ to manage and control waste disposal in Jakarta.

For further information see the:
UNESCO Jakarta Bay website at: http://www.unesco.or.id
Jakarta Bay pilot project at: http://www.unesco.or.id/prog/science/jkbay/index.htm

Or contact:
Stefano Fazi

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