Mahakam River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia •

Mahakam River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, which flows across more than 600 miles from Borneo’s central mountain range to the Makassar Strait. 

“As it nears the strait, the river branches out across a large, fan-shaped delta that was once covered in palms and mangrove forests. By 2020, about half of the delta’s forested areas had been converted into shrimp farms,” said NASA.

“The buildup of sediment near the river’s mouth caused the single river channel to break into a series of smaller, shallower channels, or distributaries. Sediment-rich water in these distributaries flows past the delta’s lobes – the low-lying wetland islands that have historically been covered in palms and the tangled roots of mangrove trees.”

For centuries, the Mahakam River has been vital for transportation and trade. It serves as a primary means of access to the interior parts of Kalimantan, where road infrastructure is limited. 

The river supports a variety of economic activities, including fishing, which is a significant source of livelihood for many local communities living along its banks. Moreover, it is essential for the timber industry and the transport of other goods and resources.

Ecologically, the Mahakam River basin is rich in biodiversity. It hosts unique and endangered species such as the Irrawaddy dolphins and freshwater stingrays, along with various types of fish, birds, and primates. 

The river’s wetlands, including lakes and swamp forests, are critical habitats for many species and play a key role in maintaining the ecological balance of the region.

However, the river faces environmental threats from human activities, including deforestation, mining, and pollution. These activities have led to habitat degradation and a decline in water quality, posing risks to the biodiversity and the communities that depend on the river for their livelihoods. 

Conservation efforts are underway to address these issues, aiming to protect the Mahakam River’s ecological integrity while supporting sustainable development in the region.

The photograph was captured on April 26, 2022 by the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 


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