On the Indonesian island of Java, the people of Jakarta are restoring the forest they need to thrive.
Outside the city, Java’s largest tracts of remaining rainforest are protected in two mountainous national parks: a rich forest ecosystem that provides the primary water catchment for over 20 million people living in five cities, including Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capitol.
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Forests and Water
In the rainy seasons, the forests of Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park and Gunung Halimun Salak National Park (collectively known as GeDePaHala) provide protection from sudden flooding as the mountains drain into the rivers and creeks around Jakarta. Several of GeDePaHala’s rivers also continue to flow throughout prolonged dry seasons, providing a form of insurance against drought.
GeDePaHala shelters a number of species – such as the silvery Javan gibbon (Hylobates moloch), Javan hawk-eagle (Spizaetus bartelsi) and a small population of Javan leopards (Panthera pardus ssp. melas), all listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List – that are found nowhere else in the world.
But the forests are struggling. In the past few decades, much of Java’s forest has been converted into farmlands and residential areas. Illegal logging continues in the remaining forested areas, much of it carried out by local people simply trying to make a living.
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To restore and protect these forests and their benefits to Java’s people, CI-Indonesia is helping to coordinate a large-scale “Green Wall” program designed to protect and restore this vital ecosystem and the direct human benefits it provides.
A Green Wall for the People of Indonesia
Green Wall projects include replanting trees, a tree adoption program, agroforestry, public outreach and community education. It represents individuals, communities, corporations, and a government working together to recover 10,000 hectares (approximately 25,000 acres, larger than the city of Miami, Florida) of degraded land in the mountains of GeDePaHala.
The restored forests will form “green walls” to buffer the protected national park forests in the future, prevent soil erosion and landslides, protect water sources, contribute to alleviating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and provide various other benefits, including offering a stronghold for biological diversity.
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“This action is urgently needed for our safety and livelihood, particularly those who live in the upstream and downstream area”, says Dr. Bambang Sukmananto, former Director of the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park. “It is my hope that the initiative could trigger awareness of people living in cities to pay more attention to the conservation of the park,” he adds.
The Pieces of the Puzzle
The Green wall concept combines numerous programs:
- Working with local communities to reforest degraded areas, creating a “green border” that will help secure the expanded park boundaries from encroachment.
- Helping communities generate extra income from forest-friendly crops. Based on local input, reforestation plants will be a mixture of forest woods, productive fruits and rare plants.
- Partnering with religious leaders and Muslim boarding schools to teach conservation of natural resources as divine gifts to be responsibly used for the benefit of current and future generations.
- Educating including local school children, families, community groups, decision makers and corporate executives at the Bodogol Conservation Education Center, which offers guided nature walks, lectures and training courses, as well as laboratory space and accommodations for visiting researchers.
- Encouraging local communities to incorporate conservation into their daily lives through films, discussions, interactive games and puppets – using Javan gibbons as the mascot. With partners, CI-Indonesia also operates a small facility that researches gibbon health, behavior and ecology, and reintroduces the animals into the wild.
- Focusing on the upstream communities, CI-Indonesia complements already-skillful traditional knowledge with modern expertise to encourage better care of the forest.
- The Green Wall program has also established a tree adoption program that allows individuals and corporations to help refresh the forest on which they all rely.
It is only appropriate that the entire region should come together to create a forest – and water-supply saving – “Green Wall.” As Jatna Supriatna, CI’s Regional Vice President for Indonesia, says, “The entirety of GeDePaHala is our responsibility. We have been using the environmental services such as clean air and water for free.”
Now, the people of Jakarta and the surrounding areas are beginning to return that gift.
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