Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: Haburas: Mangrove Devastation in Metinaru


The Haburas Foundation

Critical Issue Series - English Edition

Mangrove Devastation in Metinaru - What are the issues?

Mangrove felling for firewood and building material is out of control in Metinaro. Each day approximately 10 trucks, each fully loaded with 4 tons of illegally harvested wood are leaving the mangrove forests around Metinaro. Should we care?

  • The immediate benefits of the felling are financially positive and may be important for some members of the locally based IDP community
  • Will this short-term gain justify the disastrous long-term effects that felling mangroves will have across both the local and wider fishing communities?
  • Revenue from selling the wood is one of the few income sources available to a jobless and effectively landless, marginalised community.
  • Mangrove felling is also directly jeopardising livelihoods and Dili’s access to an affordable, first-class protein source for years to come.
Timor Leste needs a healthy mangrove resource for its fishing industry, food security, coral reef resource and a future lucrative tourism industry - The current extraction is the epitome of unsustainable resource use!
What is the answer?
Many people in Dili adhere to the conventional wisdom that the ‘sustainable environment is only an issue for Timor Leste in the future, once the more obvious and acute humanitarian problems have been addressed adequately.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to redress issues such as a lack of livelihood opportunities, access to first-class protein and good household food-security after the serious degradation to the environment that provides those services, has already occurred.

To begin the search for an answer to these problems that lie in wait for Timor Leste tomorrow, we must first generate awareness of their causes through informing all stakeholders about the strongly unsustainable practices that are occurring today.

A paradigm shift in environmental perception is essential to the future of this country, and the Haburas Foundation is leading the way. However we can only achieve a sustainable Timor Leste if this environmental responsibility is shared across all sectors of society and disciplines of development.
Bottom-line facts:
  • Mangrove forests are a key nursery habitat to the juvenile lifestages of many commercially and ecologically important fish and crustacean species (Mumby et al. 2004, Laegdsgaard & Johnson. 2001).
  • Coral reef’s species abundance and biomass has been shown to be severely reduced in mangrove absent areas (Nagelkerken et al. 2001) .
  • In Dili, important food fish such as snapper (Lutjanus. sp) jack and even barracuda species (all of which support the livelihoods of the local fishing community) utilise the mangrove forest’s ecosystem services throughout their lives
  • The mangrove forests near Metinaru are being cut down at an observed rate of approximately 40 tons per day.
  • Mangrove areas also protect coral reef from the damaging properties of turbid run-off from the already degraded terrestrial environment ie. soil erosion (EDF. 2004).
  • If unregulated felling continues evidence from a plethora of studies under similar conditions suggests exacerbaton of the problems will occur, seriously threatening fish stocks and livelihoods (see Mumby. 2006, Alongi & Carvalho. 2007)
    There is a strong economic rationale for protecting mangroves since coral reef fisheries have an estimated annual value of $5.7 billion and many people also depend on them for subsistence." (EDF, 2004)

These issues need to be addressed at both a local and national level by the Timorese government, but also by associated NGOs and other relevant changeagents. NGOs with influence over IDP livelihood practices should aim to address this issue on the ground. These actions will help to raise awareness and stress the importance of protection of the remaining mangrove areas, particularly with respect to harmonising IDP camp and local community’s relationships. The formulation of the State of the Nation document by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is currently in progress and should also include mangrove destruction in its proceedings (with particular reference to the Coral Triangle Initiative that Timor Leste has agreed to implement - relating to coral-reef conservation). The current extraction is illegal under Timorese national laws according to:

  • Article 6 of the Constitution of RDTL, section (F) pertaining to environmental protection of native resources for their continued existence,
  • Articles 61 & 139 related to environmental rights,
  • Regulation No19/UNTAET/2000 relating to protected areas, and also contravenes other ratified international agreements with UNFCCC, UNCCD UNCBD
For further information, assistance or to share your comments with the Haburas Foundation please contact:
Tel +670 331 01 03
Or e-mail:


Alongi, D. M., Carvalho, N. A., 2007. The effects of small scale logging on stand characteristics and soil biochemistry in mangrove forests of Timor Leste. AIMS, Queensland, Australia.
Ministeris de Agricultura, Dili. TL.
Environmental Defense Fund. Publications Archive, 2004, New York.

Laegdsgaard, P., Johnson, C., 2001. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology Vol 257, 229­253

Mumby et al. 2004. Nature, Vol 427.
Mumby, 2006. Connectivity of reef fish between mangroves and coral reefs: Algorithms for the design of marine reserves at seascape scales. Biological Conservation Vol 128 (215-222)
Nagelkerken, I. et al. 2001. Dependence of Caribbean reef fishes on mangroves and seagrass beds as nursery habitats: a comparison of fish faunas between bays with and without mangroves/seagrass beds. Mar.
Ecol. Vol 214, 225­235  Is this the only future for Timor Leste’s natural resources?

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