Suratno, 46, together with the Truno Djoyo Pond Farmers Group, has worked hard since 2011 to restore the mangrove forest ecosystem. The destruction of the coastal environment in Wonorejo village, Rungkut, Surabaya city, was like a bad dream. In the past, this area was the backbone of the lives of local residents, many of whom relied on sea and pond products.
Initially, Suratno, the head of the farmers group, planted mangroves around Wonorejo, his residence area. Over time, the planting activity expanded to other villages and districts. Mangrove seedlings were originally donated from companies, campuses and environmental conservation organizations. Not long after, members of Truno Djoyo involved various groups, such as students, lecturers, employees of donor companies and members of conservation groups, participating in the planting. They all replanted mangrove seeds in the damaged land.
Using a wooden raft, Suratno often goes alone in the water carrying mangrove seeds. He plants mangrove in deforested areas. In addition, he also collects garbage so that the Wonorejo areas are clean. In the last decade, apart from managing the pond and supporting his wife -- who gave him four children – Suratno has routinely gone around the water. The graduate of two Islamic boarding schools monitors and cares for mangroves so that they truly grow and live.
Every weekend, when he is on "holiday", Suratno and his family spend time with friends rafting around. They carry mangrove seeds and trash bags. Suratno\'s love and sincerity in the conservation of Surabaya’s East Coast (Pamurbaya) environment has drawn appreciation from the local administration and several parties. In 2017, he was awarded the Kalpataru Environmental Pioneer Award by the Surabaya City Administration. A year later, he received a similar award from the East Java Provincial Administration.
"I do not deserve the Kalpataru," Suratno said modestly during conversation, Monday (2/9/2019). According to him, the award should be given to Truno Djoyo and or companies, campuses and environmental organizations that have been assisting the recovery of Pamurbaya. Suratno felt he was only a spark in the community with great enthusiasm to save the waters.
That is humility among the environmentalists. They, including Suratno, always felt undeserving of awards. In fact, their role is truly widely recognized (locally and regionally), and even appreciated. "I really do not want to hurt the feelings of others who are more deserving," said the man, who goes by the name Cak Ratno.
Actually, the people of Wonorejo village want to have a prosperous life like before. This is the memory of the local people. They want to be prosperous again as before when the Pamurbaya mangrove forest was still lush. However, prosperity must be achieved through sacrifice, endeavor, hard work and smart efforts to restore mangrove areas and biodiversity that have been devastated by development, encroachment, unsustainable use and pollution.
They expect a great life as felt by the old generation when they founded the Minadon pond farmers group in the early 1980s. At that time, and for a decade afterward, the life of more than 50 group members and their families was well provided for thanks to supplies from pond harvesting and catches of aquatic biota. The local community has even developed into a cooperative providing tiger shrimp seedlings, milkfish breeding and farming equipment. At that time, the mangrove forests served as pond boundaries as well as protectors from abrasion.
"Law enforcement is always blunt when it gets to the Pamurbaya protected area."
However, life is not perfect. Over time, the Minadon lost its greatness. One by one the elders died. Re-generation stagnated. The organization began working without a clear vision. Most partners went away. Minadon members were no longer able to make use and do aquaculture sustainably. They gave in to the temptation of encroaching on and damaging the mangroves.
In the downturn, Wonorejo residents saw the emergence and arrival of various new groups who wanted to rehabilitate the mangrove area. However, residents were even jealous because they were never involved.
Finally, the people were aware that they had to be involved and independent in the rescue and recovery of Pamurbaya to ensure a sufficient life. Accompanied by a number of nongovernmental organizations, journalists and environmental activists, the residents of Wonorejo at the beginning of the millennium turned the Minadon into the Truno Djoyo Pond Farmers Group. The name of the community is taken from the name of the elderly, namely Mbah Widjo Truno. The hope is that the next generation will never forget the past.
Pamurbaya has long been considered an important part of Surabaya. One piece of evidence for this is Surabaya Bylaw No. 23/1978 concerning the Surabaya 2000 Master Plan that encourages the existence of the Pamurbaya mangrove forest as a conservation area or, in the present term, a green space. In fact, according to Surabaya City Bylaw No. 3/2007 concerning the Surabaya City Area Spatial Plan, around 2,500 hectares of the Pamurbaya area are designated as protected areas.
The special status turned out to be just words in a document. Farmers and fishermen were persuaded and lured constantly by capital owners to sell their ponds and land there. As a result, physical development and land use change was unavoidable.
"Law enforcement is always blunt when it gets to the Pamurbaya protected area," said Ratno.
On the one hand, as part of the community, such development is difficult to prevent if there are neighbors or residents who are tempted to sell land and ponds to the big businesses. However, there are also still a few people who want to survive together and believe that prosperity, like in the Minadon era, can return as a result of fish farming in Pamurbaya. Therefore, rehabilitation becomes something that cannot be stopped.
"Kalpataru for me is a mandate to continue taking care of Pamurbaya," said Cak Ratno.
Perhaps, a million mangrove seeds have been planted by Suratno and his friends to restore Pamurbaya which is still “unhealthy”. A million seeds may be too few and not yet effective in restoring the region. However, the spirit of Suratno and 64 members of Truno Djoyo in preserving Pamurbaya is believed to far exceed the number of mangrove seedlings that have been planted. They still believe that there are always crabs, shrimps, fish and shellfish and other aquatic biota that can be captured for the sake and survival of their families.
Born: Surabaya, 19 January 1973
SD Al-Khoiriyyah Wonorejo
; SMP Al-Bukhori Rungkut; Pondok Pesantren Al-Ishlahiyyah, Kemayan, Kediri; Pondok Pesantren Miftahul Huda, Blitar
Award: Kalpataru from Surabaya City in 2017 for Environment Pioneer; Kalpataru from East Java Province in 2018 for Environment Pioneer