Indonesia’s secret forests: Underground water world

In Java’s cultural heartland, a hidden world of caverns, clear water and mysterious creatures is an ecosystem like no other

Indonesia - Gunung Sewu, on the Indonesian island of Java, takes its name — which means “thousands of mountains” — from its sweeping landscape of conical hills. The area, which is a UNESCO geopark, stretches 120 kilometers east to west from the hills to the coast.

But its real treasure lies deep underground, in a mysterious world of rivers and caverns, adorned with crystals, stalactites and stalagmites and inhabited by unusual creatures. Sculpted by water over millions of years, this subterranean system is a magnet for adventure seekers and a key reservoir for local communities.

But erosion, pollution and overuse threaten to contaminate the water and harm the unusual geological formations. Scientists say planning and careful management are needed to safeguard the system and ensure that it continues to provide enough clean water for the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on it.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
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