The eruption of hot clouds and volcanic ash from Mount Merapi have caused significant damage to forests surrounding the mountain, a government official says.
The current eruptions have damaged at least 400 hectares of forest on the slopes of Merapi, after around 560 hectares were damaged in the 2006 eruptions.
"The damage may grow with later eruptions," Central Java Forestry Agency chief Sri Puryono said Tuesday.
Reforestation efforts were due to commence in November, Pur-yono said.
Central Java and Yogyakarta, where Mount Merapi lies, are home to a total of 6,500 hectares of forest.
The steep gradients and the slow growth of mountainous plants around Merapi would be likely to make the reforestation process slow, he said.
Puryono said the forest could to take up to 10 years to recover.
"Besides pine and rasamala trees, we plan to grow guava trees for the animals," he said, explaining that his office had been informed by residents living around the forests that many monkeys had been venturing into villages because of a scarcity of fruit trees in their habitat.
"The provincial administration has earmarked Rp 4 million [about
US$400] per hectare for the reforestation program," Puryono said.
He added that the economic cost of the environmental damage had not been estimated, but said ecological damage had clearly taken place, especially the death of vegetation and water pollution.
The numbers of animals had declined in affected areas, Semarangs Diponegoro University environmental science Prof. Sudharto P. Hadi said.
This had made it more difficult for local residents to predict volcanic activity since previously birds and animals, would descend from the mountain prior to an eruption, he said.
"The Javanese call it the titen knowledge, or reading the naturalsigns that can be used to predict a natural phenomenon," he said, adding that the community now had to rely solely on official warnings from the government.
The number of animals in the area has reportedly declined drastically because of damage to the forests.
Sand quarrying on the slopes of Merapi, which has now extended to the Merapi National Park, has been blamed for some of this damage.
"The government should take a firm stance on those involved in environmental destruction. Residents around Mount Merapi sometimes still have more faith in natural signs compared to scientific explanations, so both of them need to be in synergy," he said.
Source : The Jakarta Post