Coral Reef Off Coast of Bontang Severely Damaged

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang | March 27, 2012

Bontang, East Kalimantan. At least 70 percent of the 6,000 hectares of coral reefs in Bontang have been badly damaged, a local environment group said on Monday. 

“The damage is so severe,” said Concern for Equator Environment Forum chairman Laode Udin. “It is estimated that 70 percent or 4,200 hectares of [coral reefs] is damaged.” 

Laode said the coral had been ruined by the mass of industrial and domestic waste dumped into the waters. Other contributing factors to the decline are the use of explosives by local fishermen, and locals who have been stealing the reef to use for the construction of homes. 

Laode said that in the 1990s, the condition of Bontang’s coral reefs were excellent. This all changed, he said, when big businesses began to enter Bontang, famous for its rich gas reserve and coal deposits. 

Bontang is also home to Indonesia’s biggest state-owned fertilizer company, Pupuk Kaltim. 

The city’s economic boom, Laode said, sparked an influx of migrants and massive developments and it is slowly taking its toll on the environment. 

To fulfill Bontang’s need for fish, he said, fishermen began to use trawlers and bombs to increase their catch. Although illegal, enforcement against these acts has been virtually absent. 

The activist said that the fishermen are starting to suffer for their reckless acts. 

“Now they have to sail several miles into the sea to catch their fish,” he said. 

Laode said that the current rate of destruction, coupled with the reefs’ slow pace in repopulating themselves, meant that in a few years reefs in Bontang would be wiped out completely. 

As the coral reefs decline, so will the city’s once teeming marine life. Laode called for an end to over-fishing and the dumping of pollution in Bontang’s waters. 

“At least don’t treat the sea as a waste dump,” he said. “People should not throw their trash and waste to the sea. This is what is damaging the reefs.” 

Nur Hidayah of Bontang’s Agriculture, Fishery and Maritime Office (DPPK) admitted that the city’s coral reef has been badly damaged but put the level closer to 50 percent, or 3,000 hectares. 

Hidayah said that forces of nature, like sedimentation, also played a role. 

“We have to admit that our coastal lines have been badly damaged, especially the coral reefs which have reach a destruction level of 50 percent,” he said. 

The condition, the DPPK official said, had led the city to enact a city regulation as an effort to slow down the destruction rate in Bontang’s coastal areas. 

The regulation defines zones meant for conservation and those for fishing.