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,
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
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
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.
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:
- Articles 61 & 139 related to environmental rights,
For further information, assistance or to share your comments
with the Haburas Foundation please contact:
Tel +670 331 01 03
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
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
Ecol. Vol 214, 225235 Is this the only future for Timor
Leste’s natural resources?
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