Thu, 26 Oct 2000

World asked to help save Indonesia's coral reefs

NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on the international community on Wednesday to help save the nation's coral reefs through concrete but nonbinding assistance.

"Paying close attention to international developments lately, particularly with regard to the increasing tendency for politicking among international organizations, I fervently hope that the International Societies for Reef Studies (ISRS) will stick to their professional areas of competence," Megawati said in her address to some 1,500 of the world's marine scientists and other guests at the ninth International Symposium on Coral Reefs here.

Megawati said that although the country's maritime area of some 5.8 million square kilometers is home to around 65,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, or one-eighth of all the world's coral reefs, only about 6.5 percent of them are still in good condition while the rest have been damaged.

"Of course, we are responsible for this. But I do hope that we can arrange cooperation to cope with the problem.

"I said "cooperation" rather than "aid" as the connotations and mechanisms of the latter have been altered," she asserted.

Megawati further noted that concrete measures and responses to the problems of coral reefs are far more important than new regulations or norms.

"Cooperation in the form of joint research, dissemination of knowledge and expertise, exchange of experiences, and the provision of guidance and assistance for experts implementing particular programs will provide a concrete solution to the problem," she said.

Megawati also urged members of international coral reef societies to ensure that the symposium will not rest with the formulation of recommendations alone.

"This meeting should substantively come up with new techniques and methods for rehabilitating coral reefs and effectively sharing these with interested and related parties," she said.

"The last three years have been difficult for us, especially with the impact of the economic crisis and the fact that we have simultaneously had to resolve various social and political upheavals in certain regions that have led to a great deal of material and human losses and threats to our nation's unity.

"This crisis has also hit the environmental management sector and we will have to quickly remedy this."

Earlier on the second day of the symposium, a Global Report on the Status of Coral Reefs was made public.

Predictions had been made in 1992 that over the subsequent 10 to 20 years another 30 percent of the world's coral reefs could be effectively destroyed if urgent management actions were not implemented.

Sea erosion

Separately, an investigator from the Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedal), R. Bambang Pramudyanto, revealed that the destruction of coral reefs had led to massive sea erosion, such as was happening along the north coast of Java.

"Other contributing factors to sea erosion are the drastic destruction of mangrove forest as well as reclamation and river course realignment, all of which alter sea current patterns."

Bambang further noted the alarming fact that some 2,140 hectares of beach had been severely eroded in Indramayu, West Java.

"Tegal (in Central Java) has lost some 125 hectares of its beaches due to erosion while in Semarang (the province's capital), some 200 hectares of beach have been eroded," Bambang said.

State-owned oil company Pertamina has been forced to relocate its refinery pipes several times in these areas due to sea erosion. (edt)