From: Associated Press
Published January 21, 2005 12:00 AM

U.N. Says Asian Tsunami Caused Severe Environmental Damage in Indonesia

KOBE, Japan — Last month's devastating Asian tsunami caused US$675 million (euro522 million) in environmental damage in Indonesia, wrecking mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds while hobbling sewerage and other vital systems, the U.N. environmental agency said Friday.


Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said the results of a report by the Indonesian government, his agency and international donors showed the destruction to the environment was "even more alarming than previously feared."


"It is clear the recovery and reconstruction process underway must ... invest in the environmental capital of natural resources, the forests, mangroves and coral reefs that are nature's buffer to such disasters and their consequences," Toepfer said in a statement.


The Dec. 26 tsunami damaged some 25,000 hectares (61,8000 acres) of mangroves worth US$118.2 million (euro91 million), and 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) of coral reefs worth US$332.4 million (euro257 million) in Sumatra, the report said. The resulting infiltration of salt water, sediment and sludge will require the rehabilitation of rivers and rural wells.


Coastal forests and a 300-kilometer (200-mile) stretch of coastal lands were also damaged or lost, the report said.


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Other problem areas were the debris and waste caused by the tsunami, destruction of local environmental capacity -- such as solid-waste management -- and damage to oil depots and other industrial sites that could lead to leaks of harmful chemicals.


Indonesia has asked UNEP to establish an environmental crisis center, and the Maldives has requested emergency waste management help and impact studies on coral reefs. Sri Lanka and Thailand have also asked for assistance in gauging damage to the environment, the UNEP said.


Source: Associated Press


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