JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Tourists in Indonesia are discovering mangroves' benefits as the archipelago tries to replant carbon-rich coastal zones that have been decimated due to human activity.
Connie Sihombing is a resident of Jakarta who paddles her kayak in murky water and through the roots of mangroves.
"I have travelled far but I didn't know that this beautiful and fascinating park is so close," she said. She was referring to the protected mangrove forest on the northern coast.
In Indonesia, which has more than 17,000 islands, the mangroves have shrunk to 4.1 million hectares (10 million acres), as urban development and seafood farming are replacing what was a natural defence from rising sea levels and salwater intrusion.
According to Indonesia's Mangrove and Peatlands Restoration Agency, Indonesia lost 700,000 hectares (hectares) of mangroves in the past year.
Indonesia hopes that 'ecotourism,' which involves people exploring, caring for, and planting forests, will help them to understand the importance of these areas as carbon storage and biodiversity hotspots.
"Many people and businesses level down these mangroves and then build a tourism spot by piling up sand and making artificial beaches. This is contrary to nature preservation," Muhammad Saleh Alatas said, owner of The Mangrove Paddling Centre in Jakarta, which organizes tours through the mangroves.
The 98-hectare Angke Kapuk Nature Reserve Park, where the tours are conducted, is only a small part of the reforestation needed by environmentalists to restore the mangroves and other wetlands.
Muhammad Ilman, director of Nusantara Nature Conservation Agency, stated that while government funding increased in the last five years, private institutions and nongovernmental organizations are still needed.