UNWTO on the Ground / Indonesia: Mangrove and Coral Reef Restoration

Pangandaran is a popular tourist destination on the southern coast of Java, Indonesia, identified as vulnerable from the impact of climate change. Rising sea levels and higher temperatures are affecting the ecosystems in the area, and the 2006 tsunami caused a lot of damage along the coastline. Tourism activities and attractions in Pangandaran, such as swimming, surfing and diving, all rely on the well-being of the natural surroundings. Minimizing environmental impacts therefore marks a crucial long-term investment for the many local tourism stakeholders.

STREAM (‘Sustainable Tourism through Energy Efficiency with Adaptation and Mitigation Measures’) is a joint collaboration of UNWTO and the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and serves as a practical example of how the tourism sector can engage local communities to be part of a continuous, sustainable solution when facing challenges of climate change. The project goal is for STREAM to function as a lighthouse example on reaction to climate change to be replicated for other destinations in Indonesia and beyond. As part of the STREAM project, UNWTO is working with local partners to implement two initiatives directly related to the restoration and conservation of Pangandaran’s mangroves and coral reefs.

        

Why mangroves and coral reefs? Simply put, mangroves can be described as environmental super heroes. Among other things, they serve as carbon sinks since mangrove plants absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their sediments. They also protect against shoreline erosion, stabilize land elevation, and improve water quality - thus protecting other eco systems in nearby waters such as coral reefs. Further, they provide a source of food and income for the local population since they function as nursery and feeding ground for both marine and terrestrial flora and fauna, out of which some, such as crab and different species of fish has commercial value. Due to the vast amount of flora and fauna harbored – they can also serve as tourist attractions in themselves.

In order to restore Pangandaran’s mangroves, the STREAM project has launched a successful mangrove planting programme. So far, almost 2000 people from various organizations and community groups have participated in the program, planting more than 35,000 mangroves in a conservation area of 17 hectares. As of March 2013, 31,418 are recorded alive - a survival rate of nearly 90%. To help spread awareness about the importance of mangroves, a mangrove learning center has been built. STREAM is also actively involving local school children in environmental education, planting, and monitoring of mangroves through its Mangrove Ambassadors Programme – currently including 18 schools and 400 proud ambassadors.

        

On their part, coral reefs also provide both food and income for the local community. Healthy coral reefs are major tourist attractions - studies estimate the global economic benefits of coral reefs at nearly USD 30 billion each year, generated mostly from nature based tourism such as scuba diving and snorkeling. UNWTO has supported several activities aimed at restoring and protecting the coral reefs in Pangandaran. Besides coral reef plantation, including a coral reef adoption programme aimed at tourists, the STREAM project has provided training to local tourism guides, dive operators and fishermen, giving them basic knowledge about coral reef ecosystems and protection, and skills for monitoring and evaluating coral reefs.

In addition, UNWTO and local partners are in the process of developing  a “Green Energy Tour package”, where visitors to Pangandaran will be able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings by bike and boat, interact with local communities and learn more about the importance about environmental preservation. Successfully implemented, this will help spread awareness about climate change impacts and solutions beyond Pangandaran, and channel tourism revenues into continued conservation of these areas.

 

Further reading:

http://biodiv.unwto.org/en/content/stream

http://www.streamindonesia.org/

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