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Story Publication logo September 12, 2023

Mangrove Forests on North Sumatra's East Coast Disappearing; Future of the Sea Threatened — Part 1 (bahasa Indonesia)

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A collaborative in-depth reporting of Indonesia's mangrove forests degradation, impacts and the...

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This story excerpt was translated from bahasa Indonesia. To read the original story in full, visit Kompas.com. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.


Mangrove forests that were once cleared for lobster farming are now turning into oil palm plantations and private management under the guise of tourism in Pangkalan Susu, North Sumatra.

MEDAN — The destruction of mangrove forests in North Sumatra threatens the lives of traditional fishermen and the coastal environment.

Mangrove forests in Sei Siur Village, Pangkalan Susu District, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra are slowly turning into aquaculture areas, oil palm plantations, and are being converted into steam power plant (PLTU) areas. Traditional fishermen are biting their fingers after hundreds of hectares of mangrove forest disappear.

The catch is a source of livelihood for the community. Over time, the lives of traditional fishermen have become increasingly difficult due to the conversion of mangrove forests. Many traditional fishermen have switched professions to become construction workers. The rest are resigned to the situation. Based on field observations, the mangrove forests around this village appear to be in good condition from the outside. But when you go inside, it turns out that the mangrove forest has been cleared, the trees cut down for ponds and oil palm. Some are suspected to be used as mangrove tourism areas.

Head of the Mangrove Rehabilitation Working Group (Pokja RM) Sumatra Region, Giri Suryanta, said that so far, the causes of mangrove forest damage include the conversion of functions into ponds, plantations, and encroachment. Judging from the indicative target of accelerating mangrove rehabilitation (PRM), North Sumatra's mangrove forest is 57,490 hectares while the potential or damaged mangrove forest area is 29,417 hectares. By 2022, the province has a rehabilitation target of 13,357 hectares but only 373 hectares have been realized.


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Mangrove wood collection for charcoal kitchens occurs in Pangkalan Susu District, Langkat Regency. Encroachment is one of the threats to mangrove forests on the east coast of Sumatra. Image by Dewantoro. Indonesia, 2023.
Tropical ecology and biodiversity conservation expert, Faculty of Forestry, University of North Sumatra, Onrizal., PhD, said that talking about mangrove deforestation could have started with the massive shrimp and fish farming business in the 1970s.  The shrimp and fish farming business began to fade due to the emergence of diseases/pests and is difficult to control even now.
Onrizal, a tropical ecology and biodiversity conservation expert, Faculty of Forestry, University of North Sumatra, said that talking about mangrove deforestation could have started with the massive shrimp and fish farming business in the 1970s. The shrimp and fish farming business began to fade due to the emergence of diseases and pests and is difficult to control, even now. Image by Dewantoro. Indonesia, 2023.
Sazali Sinaga (62), a traditional fisherman in Sei Siurm Village, Pangkalan Susu District, Langkat Regency who suffered losses due to the conversion of mangrove forests.  According to him, clearing land for oil palm plantations has an impact on the decline in catch.
Sazali Sinaga, 62, a traditional fisherman in Sei Siurm Village, Pangkalan Susu Subdistrict, Langkat Regency, lost money due to the conversion of mangrove forests. According to him, land clearing for oil palm plantations affects his catch, which is decreasing. Image by Dewantoro. Indonesia, 2023.
Dedi, dulunya nelayan tradisional di Pangkalan Susu. Dari hasil laut dulunya dia mendapatkan hasil Rp 800 ribu per hari. Selama beberapa tahun terakhir dia beralih profesi menjadi buruh bangunan.
From marine products, Dedi, formerly a traditional fisherman in Pangkalan Susu, used to earn IDR 800,000 ($51 USD) per day. Over the last few years he has changed his profession to become a construction worker. Image by Dewantoro. Indonesia, 2023.
Sazali Sinaga di atas perahunya menyusun batang-batang kayu. Dia mengaku hanya 15 menit di rumah dan selebihnya selama satu harian berada di atas perahu mencari ikan, udang, kepiting di perairan Desa Sei Siur, Kecamatan Pangkalan Susu, Kabupaten Langkat. Menurutnya, pembukaan lahan untuk kebun kelapa sawit berpengaruh pada hasil tangkapannya yang semakin menurun.
Sazali Sinaga arranges logs on his boat . He admits that he is only at home for 15 minutes, and the rest of the day he is on the boat looking for fish, shrimp, and crabs in the waters of Sei Siur Village, Pangkalan Susu District, Langkat Regency. He said land clearing for oil palm plantations affects his catch, which is decreasing. Image by Dewantoro. Indonesia, 2023.

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