Maluku bone collector unearths troubling consequence of coastal abrasion

SERAM ISLAND, Indonesia — Samadin Samalehu paced up and down the beach in Haya village this past January, gathering human remains into a plastic bag. A heavy rain had begun and the onshore breeze gathered strength as morning broke and Samadin collected femur bones, ribs and a skull. He darted into the shore break to pick up a bone before it was snatched by the tide here in Indonesia’s Maluku province. “There are probably around 20 graves that have been damaged,” Samadin, a caretaker at the Tutuni public cemetery, told Mongabay Indonesia. “Some are also missing.” Like many seaside communities in the world’s largest archipelagic country, Haya village faces an uncertain future owing to erosion of its coastline. In Haya, the combined forces of currents, tide, wind and impact from storm surges have pushed back the coastline here by about 20 meters (66 feet). A study published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2018 found that approximately 28,000 square kilometers (11,000 square miles) of land had been eroded by coastal abrasion globally, an area 10 times the size of Hong Kong. Further research in the same journal in 2020 projected that losses from extreme coastal flooding would soon accelerate, and that sea level rises would “radically redefine the coastline of the 21st century.” However, residents of Haya village worry that the gradual forces causing their coastline to crumble have been stimulated by new demand for sand. The South Seram highway has collapsed due to abrasion and sea waves. Image by Edison…This article was originally published on Mongabay