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Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Mangroves & Tsunamis



From BERNAMA ::

Mangroves Best Natural Barrier To Mitigate Tsunami, Says Environmentalist
By P. Vijian

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 (Bernama) -- Environmentalists' pleas to conserve mangroves to protect the ecosystem has gone unheeded for a long time.

But today, apart from being the favourite habitats of birds, fish and micro-organisms, mangroves are considered the best natural barrier to protect coastal communities from the onslaught of tsunamis.

Global Environment Centre director Faizal Parish said fresh reports coming from tsunami-devastated regions revealed that in some areas mangrove forests helped to mitigate the impact of strong waves and gushing sea water.

"Data from our counterparts in India says that in places where mangroves were replanted or intact, the level of danger was lesser compared to places where mangroves were displaced.

"They act as barriers, reducing energy from the sea and collect debris which causes more damage (to the people) than sea water (during a tsunami).

"If there are mangroves, then people have a chance to hold on to the mangroves," he told Bernama Tuesday.

Faizal said that over the last 50 years, the sea level had increased by 27 cm as a result of climatic changes and in the next 100 years experts predict that the sea level could rise by one metre.

"If we have a high sea level, the impact of tsunamis would be much greater. That means coastal populations are not only vulnerable to tsunamis but also to regular storms. The rising sea level will definitely affect Malaysia," he added.

Faizal mentioned that the rising sea level would also lead to other environmental hazards such as coastal erosion, storm impact and salinisation of ground water.

The coastline of West Malaysia, mainly along Selangor and Perak, was better protected by mangroves compared to Kedah and Penang, both of which suffered severely following the Dec 26 massive earthquake that rocked Acheh, Sumatra.

"Mangroves play a vital role; they reduce coastal erosion and reduce damage from waves. The future strategy will be to restore or protect mangroves along the coastline," added Faizal.

He said many victims of the unprecedented tidal waves were coastal dwellers who relied on fishing and sea resources for their livelihood, adding that their future was likely to be bleak.

"Many of the poor coastal people were fishing communities dependent on fish breeding or natural resources in the mangrove areas. If these areas were significantly degraded by the tsunami, their future livelihood would be affected," he said.

If conditions were good, mangrove forests, which lie between the sea and land, will easily take about three to five years to grow, he said.

Looks like if we don't look after nature and the environment, we will eventually have to pay and at times it is with our lives.
Below are more links to articles and blogs regarding human activities, mangroves, coral reefs, shrimp farming and tsunamis ::
  1. Mangroves Can Act as Shield against Tsunami
  2. Rape of the mangroves- The Times of India
  3. Rage of the tsunami (and destruction of natural coastal protection)
  4. `Mangroves vital for mitigating impact of disasters'
  5. Restoring Mangroves
  6. The Biology Refugia
  7. WAVE OF DESTRUCTION
  8. Human Activities Contributed to Tsunami's Ravages

Wasn't it recently in our 'Pearl of the Orient' that we cleared mangroves to make way for development, transferring bird nests and so on. Hopefully the recent tsunamis will teach us to respect nature and the environment better.


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