The Green Wall
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Barrett Hansen Read : 1682 Date : Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 06:40:36

    In May, many residents of Blok M in Jakarta noticed a change in their water: it had become sticky and salty. Though Blok M is six kilometers from the ocean, seawater had trickled this far inland, mixing with the groundwater. This episode illustrates Jakarta's growing water problem. The municipal piped water service can only provide about two-thirds of the estimated 27,000 liters per second that the city needs, so many have taken to pumping their own water. The rapid depletion of underground wells lowers the freshwater table and allows seawater to permeate far inland. The lowering of the water table also causes Jakarta to sink, with present rates at about seven centimeters a year.

    Thus, the Jakarta government must find ways to raise its water supply. One way to do this is to reforest areas cleared for farming along the fringes of two abutting national parks that provide much of Jakarta's piped water, Gunung Gede Pangrango and Gunung Halimun Salak (collectively known as Gedepahala). “There are at least 10,000 hectares left barren in the buffer zone of the national parks south of Jakarta,” explains Ketut Putra, head of the NGO environmental group Conservation International Indonesia (CI), “Jakarta receives most of its water from this area.” Forests naturally capture water and replenish water stores, while farms and cleared land encourage runoffs, floods and landslides.

    To fight this problem, Ketut helped to develop what is called the Green Wall project, started in 2009. It is an effort led by CI to reforest these buffer areas, which is funded by the Japanese air-conditioning firm Daikin Industries. The project has focused its reforestation program on a 250 hectare plot along the boundaries of the Gedepahala area. Over the years, local farmers and illegal loggers have encroached on these national parks. Anton Ario, head of the Green Wall project, stresses that CI's effort hinges on working with the farmers to reforest these areas. “They need to understand and get benefits from the project,” says Anton.

    While the forest would naturally reclaim land left unattended, Anton is helping to speed up the process by giving the farmers seeds to replant native species such as Indonesian magnolia and teak. Anton is also giving them the seeds to plant jackfruit and avocado, which the farmers can later harvest for themselves. These additional plants make the landscape more closely resemble its natural state, which keeps the soil fertile via additional biodiversity and helps provide a more consistent water flow, both geographically and temporally.

    Anton's team tracks each tree planted and replaces the unhealthy ones, meticulously noting how different species fare in different areas for future reference. In addition, they host community activities like conservation-focused movies to help reinforce their message, and take schoolchildren into the forests on field trips.