Mangrove Forests Can Be An Effective First Line Of Defense Against The Tsunami

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The tsunami that ravaged the coastal areas of Asia reminds us that we have little protection without mangrove forests against the fury of the open seas. The underwater earthquake off the seas of Indonesia set off a series of waves that devastated the coasts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and traveled as far as the eastern coast of Africa. Only coasts that were protected by coastal mangrove forests could withstand the initial impact of the destructive waves.

The Indonesian province of Aceh was the worst hit being right in the vicinity of the earthquake. The surging waves ripped right through the open beaches and destroyed habitation and took life in a matter of minutes. Over 167,000 people were killed in the Indonesian province and over 227,000 people were killed in all.

Agus Halim, an environmental scientist is helping reconstruct the damaged coastline of Aceh. Halim lost his wife and 2 children in the Tsunami. He is clear in his concept. He believes that the coastline can only be protected from the ravages of the sea by coastal belts of mangrove forests. They protect the coastline from the surging storm waves and protect the coastline. 

Halim has overseen the plantation of mangrove forests covering thousands of hectares around Aceh. He hopes when the next storm surge or tsunami comes, Aceh would be better prepared.

Mangrove Forests Along The Coast Can Absorb And Dissipate The Power Of The Waves

The tsunami off the shore of Aceh had destroyed everything all along the coast of the countries that were in its path. The waves covered the coconut trees lining the coastline. Only the people who managed to make it to the hills further inland managed to survive, though most lost someone close, and their belongings.

The shift in tectonic plates that caused the tsunamis changed the coastline and submerged forever the sites of many villages. But growing evidence suggests that mangrove forests can absorb the devastation of even the most terrible of waves. The roots and dense branch network of the mangrove forests absorb the brunt of the waves and dissipate them.

Read: With Biodiversity Threat Looming Large, Here Are Ways To Prevent Them!

Halim says that villages that were protected by the mangroves forests managed to survive the sudden surge of the waves. Satellite images analyzed by Juan Carlos Laso Bayas of Hohenheim University in Stuttgart revealed that areas that had forest cover in the coastline of Aceh had reported an 8% drop in casualties from the tsunami. That made the difference to around 10,000 lives.

Around 2 million trees have been planted by people around Aceh involving 70 villages. Other than the mangrove forests, casuarina pines, a quick-growing native, have also been planted along the coast in sandy areas.

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