Sri Lanka: First Nation to Protect Mangroves
Mangrove forests are one of the most at-risk habitats in the world, with more than half of it being either lost or destroyed over the last century. The trees are evergreens that can be found in tropical and subtropical regions, able to grow in saltwater and in conditions that other trees would struggle in.
Although there are lots of benefits to be had from looking after the world’s mangrove forests, there surprisingly hadn’t been any protection programmes installed.
Until, of course, now.
Sri Lanka has become the first nation to put something in place to ensure the protection of its mangrove forests – a scheme that is hoped to be picked up by the rest of the world.
The plans are being backed by the Sri Lankan government, and will involve a variety of different projects designed to ensure the safety of the trees. For example, there will be alternative job training and replanting projects in mangrove nurseries.
Alongside a combination of laws that will also be put into effect, there will also microloans. In return for these, 15,000 women will be expected to guard the trees close to their homes and stop using them for firewood.
Their job will entail making sure no one from their community, or people from outside it, can cut down the trees. If people do try to get to the trees, and the women are unable to persuade these people to leave, the authorities can be called in, thanks to the new laws. Overall, the government believes the women involved will hugely benefit the living standards in their local communities.
So, apart from all of the standard reasons for wanting to protect trees, what makes mangrove forests so special?
For a start, they retain carbon in the few top metres of soil. They’re also not susceptible to forest fires because of their surrounding habitat and the lack of readily available fuel.
But they also serve as nurseries for many of the fish species that go on to populate coral reefs. These fish populations have provided the livelihood and food for millions of families for generations, which has allowed the coastal communities to sustain themselves after all this time.
It should also be noted that without the protection of the mangrove forests, lots of the villages in Sri Lanka that survived the 2004 tsunami would have been wiped out completely.
Alongside the Sri Lankan government, joint partners of the programme include Sudeesa, which is based in Sri Lanka, and Seacology, which is a global non-government organisation. Each of these companies will be overseeing the new measures, and hope that other countries with mangrove forests will start their own protection schemes.
“It’s the responsibility and the necessity of all [various types of institutions] and civil community to be united to protect the mangrove ecosystem,” declared Maithreepala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka.
So, well done to Sri Lanka on becoming the first to protect these amazing and globally-beneficial habitats, and let’s hope that other nations follow the same initiative in the near future.