August 19, 2016

What are the Other Countries Doing to Conserve the Mangroves

I had written about the importance of the mangrove forests and the necessity to conserve them. That article was largely based on my experiences and knowledge acquired while navigating among the mangrove forests with a ship some forty years ago and also on some information from the research papers and reports by some foreign institutions. I found that some of the reports are not comprehensive, as they are mostly based on the satellite images and a few days’ field trips to Myanmar. The durations of the field trips were too short to be able to collect enough information and data and also such international teams spent most of their times in big cities instead of in the fields. However, as my approach to this subject is to create awareness of the importance of the mangroves, I obtained much insight on the subject from them, which I am very grateful. As for this article, I had to rely on reports and case studies made in other countries and learn what they are doing to conserve their mangroves. I am just a layman who is obsessed with this subject, so I will not try to sound professional in my presentation.
Thus, I will not be dwelling much on the technical aspects or data.
Strategies and Tactics
As the root causes of the destructions of the mangroves worldwide are almost the same everywhere, I think their strategies and tactics to conserve the mangroves may be applicable to our country too. When I studied the conservation works done by some countries in our region I noticed there are similarities in their strategies with only a few variations, which are peculiar to each country. I intend to discuss the salient points that are common to all countries generally, and try to deliberate those that are peculiar to certain countries, wherever relevant, along the way. I had noticed that every country that are implementing the mangrove rehabilitation projects adhered to some or all of the following tactics:—
1. Restrict Loggings. The first step to rehabilitate the mangrove forests starts with tight restrictions on logging. The restriction of logging involves the banning of timber and firewood extractions and charcoal making. To be able for the populace to observe these restrictions, alternatives or substitutes are provided; for instance building materials and other forms of fuels for cooking purposes — such as liquid petroleum gas, electricity, fuel pellets made of saw dusts, rice husks and coconut husks etc. In Bangladesh and Sri Lanka they substitute coconut husks and cow dung for cooking purposes.
2. Curtailing Commercial Industries. Commercial industries, such as agriculture and aqua-culture are the major causes of the large scale depletion of the mangroves around the world. Thus, curtailing the number of agricultural farms, fish farms, shrimp farms and salt pans are being carried out in most countries to protect the mangroves from further destructions.
3. Reforestations of Unproductive Agricultural and Aqua-cultural Farms. It had been found in many countries that most agricultural and aqua-cultural businesses in the mangrove areas were quickly abandoned due to poor productivity. Unproductive rice farms, fish farms, shrimp farms and salt pans are reclaimed and replanted with mangroves, proved to be effective in the rehabilitation of the forests and gaining momentum in some countries.
4. Educating the People. Awareness training programmes, to educate the inhabitants of the areas in and around the mangrove forests the benefits of the mangroves and the importance and necessity to conserve them, are also making good progress. There are also demonstrations and practical trainings on how to plant the mangroves. Thus the general populace is getting more and more involved in the conservation projects as the results of such programmes.
5. Provision of Incentives. Provision of incentives that include the training of the people dwelling in or near the mangroves, in business skills and creating jobs that would generate more incomes; giving training in home backyard vegetable gardening methods—such as multi-rack and aqua-ponic vegetable gardening; granting of loans by micro-financing organizations for the womenfolk to start their own businesses to supplement their families’ incomes. As the populace become self-sustainable they gradually keep away from exploiting the mangroves. In Sri Lanka microcredit are granted women in exchange for looking after the mangroves.
6. Finding Markets for their Produces. Once the womenfolk had successfully established their business, individually or as groups, their produces need markets. Arrangements are made where they can sell their products, for example—the farmers’ market that are popular in some countries.
7. Community-based Conservation. The community, after being educated about the benefits of the mangroves and the incentives they received in lieu of living-off the mangroves, they volunteered to participate in the rehabilitation. Some communities organized the plantation of the mangroves on their own free will to reestablish the mangrove forests in the vicinity of their villages.
8. Promote Eco-tourism in the Mangrove Forests. Eco-tourism in the mangrove forest regions are getting popular in the neighbouring countries. As the mangrove forests are endowed with bio-diversities, they attract students of biology as well as nature lovers. In countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, there are nature boardwalks constructed over the swampy places inside the mangrove forests to make access easier for tourists.
9. Advocacy Service. The advocacy services by NGOs proved to be effective in the preservation of the forests.
The Sri Lankan Model
The experts estimated that more than fifty per cent of thr mangrove forests worldwide were destroyed over the past three decades and Myanmar is the worst hit. Some put the destruction rate of the mangrove forests in Myanmar at 64.2 per cent during that same period. To my knowledge, the concerned departments, the United Nations organization, such as the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) and some local NGOs are already conducting conservation works in Myanmar.
As I am trying to make the general public aware of the benefits of the mangroves, this article is intended to instigate some would-be environment-enthusiasts to get interested and incite their desires to work for the conservation of the mangrove forests. Thus, for their benefit, I would like to mention what Sri Lanka is doing to rehabilitate and conserve their mangrove forests. She had learned a good lesson after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, that places where there are intact mangrove forests along their shores were spared from severe devastations. Thus, she is going all out to conserve the mangroves on a country-wide scale. With the help of the US based organization, the Seacology, Sri Lankan had launched a 3.5 million dollar programme to conserve the mangroves. They are the first in the world to implement such a scheme. Their approach is based on the community participation. They give incentives by granting micro-finance loans to the womenfolk in exchange for looking after the mangroves. The women involved in such schemes are given training in planting mangrove trees. As many women became successful in their businesses, made possible by the microcredit, they become more enthusiastic to conserve the mangroves. As they become aware of the importance of the mangroves for their safety and their livelihoods, by being actively involved in the conservations, they passed on the message to their husbands and families. Thus their dependence on the mangroves are reduced and hence the exploitation of forests are becoming lesser. Also the strict forestry ordinance concerning the mangrove forests contribute greatly to the conservation efforts.
Mangrove Conservation Projects in Myanmar
Myanmar too is earnestly endeavoring to conserve the depleted mangroves. A joint community-based project for the environment and livelihood conservation, by the FAO and the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry, implemented in the Wun Baik mangrove reserves is generating good results. Today, a total of 22000 people in 32 villages in that area are growing more foods, increasing their incomes, while preventing and developing the environments. I noticed that the above mentioned project targets the womenfolk, as in Sri Lanka, to get the community aware of the benefits of the mangroves. Small businesses run by women produce and sell tree seedlings and fuel efficient stoves as a result of the education and business skill trainings provided by the programme. The stoves managed to cut use of wood for cooking by about forty per cent. Double-rack backyard gardens increased food supplies for family consumptions and also increased the income of the families by selling their surplus. About forty families are making over thirty thousand Kyats a month from their vegetable gardens. Two new fresh water ponds in two villages are providing water, a rare commodity in the summer, for their gardens. Four acres of abandoned paddy fields had been turned back into mangroves using ecological mangrove restoration techniques, as a demonstration of community-based mangrove management.
Also the WWF, which is operating world-wide to support and assist the governments and social organizations, in various fields of conservation had opened it’s office in Yangon. It is actively involved in the conservations of forests, wildlife, environments, and ecosystems, etc; by collaborating with the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry and giving financial and technical supports to the social organizations, which are involved in those activities.
These are very encouraging developments for the conservation of the environments and the ecosystems of our country and the mangrove forests are bound to benefit from them. They should be carried on with lasting, unrelenting momentum. The local communities, too, are responsible to observe the conservation and management policies and should get involved in the rehabilitation of the mangroves, which provide them with foods and livelihoods, and above all, protect them against the destructive forces of nature.


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