Indonesia — Environmentalists have urged the government to take action to stop environmental destruction in Mount Ceremai National Park (TNGC), whichthey say is continuing at an alarming rate. Leader of the Mount Ciremai conservation group, Avo Juhartono, said recently that the biggest contributor to the damage was forest fires, which often occur during the dry season, as well as damage caused by migrating farmers, illegal loggers and sand and rock quarrying.
“We fear that the extent of damage will further increase if the government is not quick to respond to the issue,” Avo said. A number of species of flora and fauna in the mountain area are threatened with extinction because the ongoing destruction of their habitat. “The damage has threatened a number of clean water sources, which are used to irrigate farmland in Kuningan, Majalengka and Cirebon regencies,” Avo added.
He said the government should anticipate the potential risk of the rampant fires in the TNGC area. Avo said forest fires were an annual occurrence in Mount Ciremai, especially during the dry season. Avo says the areas most prone to forest fires are on the northern elevations of the mountain, between 500 and 900 meters above sea level, including in the Setianegara, Trijaya, Padabenghar and Telagaremis areas.
“Those trekking routes are used by climbers. Many local residents burn the forest to open up farmland,” he explained. Other areas susceptible to forest fires are located on elevations of between 2,400 and 3,000 meters above sea level. “These areas are mostly covered with dry shrubs which are very flammable,” he said. According to Avo, 2,000 hectares, or more than 10 percent of the 15,500 hectare TNGC, have been damaged so far.
Environmentalists have raised concerns that forest damage in Mount Ciremai could harm a number of plant species, including the Cipahit hardwood tree and Cerme tree – the sour fruit of which is used by residents of Kuningan regency to make pickles with. Wildlife habitats are also threatened, including that of the Elang Jawa eagle and the Macan Kumbang tiger. “We still don’t have the latest data on the number of flora and fauna species which are on the brink of extinction. However, they certainly have become very rare,” Avo said. Gunung Ciremai is the highest mountain in West Java, with a summit 3,078 meters above sea level. The national park saddles the Kuningan and Majalangka regencys. Nearly 50 villages are located on the foot of the mountain.