This letter features reporting from "A Portrait of the Duano Tribe's Life as the Mangrove Forest Erodes (bahasa Indonesia)" by Tonggo Simangunsong and Suryadi M Nur

Dear Indonesian Government,

Greetings, I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing this open letter to draw your attention to a pressing environmental and societal issue highlighted in the article titled “A Portrait of the Duano Tribe’s Life as the Mangrove Forest Erodes.” This insightful piece sheds light on the challenges faced by the Duano tribe, also known as “Orang Laut” on the east coast of Riau, Indonesia. It underscores the profound impacts of climate change, coastal erosion, and mangrove forest degradation on their way of life.

The Duano tribe has historically thrived by relying on the sea and the mangrove forests, living in harmony with these ecosystems. However, the article vividly portrays the stark reality that they now confront. Their traditional livelihoods as fishermen have been severely impacted by the depletion of fish populations due to environmental degradation. Satellite imagery reveals a changing coastline, resulting from higher waves and mangrove forest erosion, further threatening their homes and communities. This issue is not limited to the Duano tribe alone; it reflects broader global concerns regarding the impacts of climate change, the deterioration of vital ecosystems, and the vulnerability of coastal communities. It is a matter of urgency and importance that requires immediate attention and concerted efforts to address.

As an Indonesian citizen, the plight of the Duano tribe and the erosion of mangrove forests strikes a chord on both a personal and community-wide level. Their story is a stark reminder that environmental challenges, such as climate change and habitat degradation, are interconnected and can impact us all. It underscores the vulnerability of coastal communities across Indonesia, not just Riau, and the potential consequences of depleting vital ecosystems like mangrove forests. Additionally, it highlights the significance of preserving our rich cultural diversity. Indonesia is home to numerous Indigenous communities, each with unique traditions and ways of life. The Duano tribe’s experience emphasizes the need to safeguard the cultural heritage of all our fellow citizens, ensuring that their traditional practices and identities are not eroded by environmental changes or societal pressures. This issue serves as a compelling call to action, encouraging us to engage in discussions and local initiatives for sustainable practices and environmental conservation within our own communities, helping to prevent similar challenges from affecting us in the future.

I strongly urge my representatives to take a comprehensive approach to address the issues of the Duano tribe’s rights and mangrove forest conservation. This should include advocating for legislation that protects and restores mangrove ecosystems and promotes sustainable coastal management practices. Support for sustainable fisheries, including the enforcement of fishing quotas and the protection of breeding grounds, is paramount. Additionally, we should invest in projects that enhance climate resilience for coastal communities, including coastal defense and adaptation measures. Public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives are needed to inform citizens about the challenges faced by the Duano tribe and other coastal communities and to encourage sustainable practices. Advocating for the rights of Indigenous and coastal communities is crucial for preserving cultural diversity and sustainable practices. Finally, active participation in international efforts and climate agreements is essential to address the root causes of environmental challenges, including climate change. These actions will not only help the Duano tribe but also set an example for responsible environmental stewardship and community support across Indonesia.

In closing, I believe that by taking these proactive steps, we can address the pressing issue of the Duano tribe’s rights and mangrove forest erosion while setting a positive precedent for responsible environmental stewardship and community support in Indonesia. The preservation of our ecosystems and cultural diversity is paramount, and I trust that your dedicated efforts will contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for our nation. I look forward to your commitment to these crucial actions and to working together for the betterment of our environment and the well-being of our fellow citizens. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Valerie Antoniette Hardin

Valerie Antoniette Hardin, a 14-year-old 9th grader at SMPK 4 PENABUR Jakarta, is passionate about literacy and arts. She excels in various literacy competitions, including book reviews and drawing contests. In the realm of global affairs, Valerie has participated in Model United Nations to explore her interest in diplomacy and international relations. Currently engaged in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, she extends her commitment to personal development, community service, and outdoor exploration.

Valerie’s journey harmoniously blends her literacy prowess, global awareness, and dedication to personal growth. Despite her academic achievements, she approaches her pursuits with humility. Valerie aspires to inspire a love for literature among her peers, contributing to the growth of teenage interest in reading.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Local Letters for Global Change contest!