Saving Pulau Tanjung Surat’s Mangroves

250 volunteers from the local communities, government agencies, Saudi Aramco, PRefChem, and GEC joined hands to plant more than 1000 mangrove saplings to strengthen the island shoreline and conserve its mangrove forest

JOHOR: A group of 250 volunteers comprising of volunteers from the local communities, schools, Saudi Aramco, PRefChem and government agencies took part in the Aramco Mangrove Tree Planting programme to raise awareness on the importance of the mangrove ecosystem and its contribution towards local community social-economic development. Together, they planted a total of 1020 saplings that consist of 950 saplings of Rhizophora apiculata locally known as Bakau minyak, 50 saplings of Bruguiera sexangula (Tumu Putih), and 20 Xylocarpus granatum (Nyireh Bunga) at degraded mangrove areas in Pulau Tanjung Surat.

Held in conjunction with the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, this programme also included a public educational exhibition with booths set up by the government agencies, the Global Environment Centre (GEC) and Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest. Volunteers were seen relishing the opportunity to experience of mangrove planting, despite the mud and all!

Funded by Saudi Aramco and implemented by GEC with support from Johor State Forestry Department (JSFD), Limbongan Maju Sdn Bhd and Pengerang Local Authority, the event is part of a wider effort to conserve the Pulau Tanjung Surat’s intact mangrove forest by rehabilitating the river riparian with community participation under the Aramco-GEC Community-based Mangrove Conservation and Sustainable Livelihood Programme.

The event also included the launch of a community mangrove nursery and Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest (FTSMF). The Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest consist of four local villages, namely, Kampung Nyor, Kampung Tanjung Surat, Kampung Linting and Kampung Belungkor. They will be ‘eyes and ears’ of the local government and will work together to address any issues and will assist in the conservation of the mangrove forest.

Speaking to media representatives after officiating the event, Tuan Haji Jefri Abdul Rasid, Director of Johor State Forest Department (JFSD) said, “Establishment of Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest is a social and environmental initiative by GEC and Saudi Aramco since the beginning of this year to engage and empower the local community to be actively involved in the rehabilitation and conservation of mangrove forest at Pulau Tanjung Surat. JSFD is proud to announce that the Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest is the first community-based organisation to be established in Johor that is able to assist in undertaking the role of rehabilitation and conservation as well as protection of mangroves in Pulau Tanjung Surat in partnership with GEC, JSFD and other related government agencies.”

Nader Al-Arfaj, Managing Director of Aramco Asia Singapore, said, “Promoting and protecting biodiversity through educational programmes and positive interventions is a key focus of Saudi Aramco’s commitment to the environment. In Malaysia, we are very privileged to work with like-minded partners such as the GEC, Johor government agencies and the local communities to protect and conserve the mangrove forest in Johor, which is part of Johor’s vital coastal ecosystem, for future generations.”

Meanwhile, Director of GEC, Faizal Parish said, “Effective community involvement and local ownership of the project are two important factors in achieving a sustainable impact. Support from the Johor State Forestry Department and Saudi Aramco has enabled us to build community awareness on the importance of protecting mangrove, establishing the community nursery to support replanting activities and initiate alternative livelihood options to reduce pressure on mangrove resources. When the community understands the importance of mangroves to protect their coastal homes and improve their livelihood, they will be empowered to spearhead their own conservation efforts in the long run.”

He added that in the future, this project will be used as a model to demonstrate an effective and sustainable approach in mangrove rehabilitation and conservation, and as a sustainable livelihood programme enabled by successful group-led actions, and empowering local communities in other areas within the Johor state.

Chair of Friends of Tanjung Surat Mangrove Forest, Hafidah Binti Mohd Dali expressed her thanks to Saudi Aramco and the stakeholders for their involvement and looked forward to the continuous support to restore and conserve the mangrove forest.

The volunteers also learnt about the importance of the riverine tidal mangrove ecosystem to its surrounding areas and its link to issues such as climate change. This awareness is crucial to change, and events like these are an important avenue to educate the masses about biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

For more information on this or to partner with the Global Environment Centre, please visit www.gec.org.my