Mangrove Forests Reduce Impact of Tsunami and Cyclones, Ecological Experts Say
BHUBANESHWAR, India — Mangrove forests along coastal shores sharply reduced the impact of the recent tsunami in different parts of Asia, environmental experts meeting in eastern India said Wednesday.
"Mangroves can mitigate the tidal surge and the waves from the sea. We need to educate people about the benefits of the wetlands and marine ecosystems," Max Finlayson, president of Wetlands International, an environmental group, told participants at the third Asian Wetlands Symposium.
More than 400 environmental experts from 31 countries were attending the symposium, jointly organized by the Ramsar Center of Japan and the state government of Orissa, where Bhubaneshwar is the capital.
The discussions on Wednesday, the final day of the three-day symposium, were to focus on the Dec. 26 tsunami's impact on coastal ecosystems and recommend remedial measures to countries hit by the killer waves, said Ajit Patnaik, a top conference official.
Although mangrove forests located close to the epicenter of the tsunami were damaged by the sheer force of the waves, elsewhere the mangroves were critical in saving homes and buildings, said Tez Mundkur of Wetlands International, India.
"For example, in India's Tamil Nadu state, the impact of the tsunami was less on the human settlements located behind mangrove forests," Mundkur said.
Some participants lamented that many wetland and marine ecosystems had been destroyed by unrestrained commercial activity in many Asian countries.
"Mangrove forest areas have been reduced by 26 percent during the last 20 years because of human intervention and economic development activities in six Asian countries affected by the recent tsunami," said Faizal Parish of the Global Environment Center, Malaysia.
Participants also emphasized the need to involve people affected by the tsunami in efforts to restore the environment.
Source: Associated Press