Sri Lanka: first to give mangroves total protection

A month ago, in Colombo, the Sri lankan government claimed that it had resolved to grant full protection to all its mangrove forests. Mangroves are considered by scientists to be one of the world’s most at-risk habitats. Over the lpast 100 years, the world has lost over half of its mangrove forests, with Sri Lanka losing 76 percent. The forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch reports that the world lost 1.38 percent of its mangroves from 2000 through 2012.

Until now, Sri Lanka’s mangroves have been largely unprotected from forest clearing. Global Forest Watch data show that in total, the island nation lost 1.5 percent of its tree cover from 2001 through 2013.

How will this work? By roping in women, of course! The project is estimated to cost US $3.4 million over the next five years. It aims to protect all 8,815 hectares of Sri Lanka’s mangroves by providing alternative job training and microloans to 15,000 women live in 1,500 small, impoverished communities attached to the country’s mangrove forests.

The strategy includes replanting of over 3,800 hectares of mangrove forests that have been cut down. The beneficiaries of the loans will be responsible for this. The communities receiving the microloans to help them start their own small businesses will, in exchange, be responsible for protecting the mangroves.

A first-of-its-kind mangrove museum will also be constructed as part of this project.

The government of Sri Lanka will oversee demarcations and gazetting of mangrove forests and provide legal protection and rangers to patrol these forests.

“It is the responsibility and the necessity of all government institutions, private institutions, non-government organizations, researchers, intelligentsia and civil community to be united to protect the mangrove ecosystem,” stated Sri Lanka’s President, Maithreepala Sirisena.

U.S.-based nonprofit Seacology, Sri Lanka-based NGO Sudeesa (formerly known as the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka) and the government of Sri Lanka are partners in this programme.

Sri Lanka is the first country in the world to grant full protection to all its mangrove forests.

Seacology, a U.S.-based nonprofit, worked on this for over two years, according to its Executive Director, Duane Silverstein. “We believe that it will serve as a model of protection of mangrove forests and the blue carbon they harbor for other nations to emulate,” he said.

“No nation in history has ever protected all of its mangrove forests and Sri Lanka is going to be the first one to do so. This is through a combination of laws, sustainable alternative incomes and mangrove nurseries. It is also very significant considering the importance of mangroves as a means of sequestering carbon,” Silverstein said.


Mangrove forests around the world is their ability to not only absorb more atmospheric carbon than other types of forests, but also their ability to hold on to that carbon over a longer period. Moreover, because of the kind of habitat and the lack of readily available fuel, mangroves are also not susceptible for forest fires.


Mangroves are also excellent barriers that protect coastal settlements and shores from the impact of waves, erosion, tsunamis and storms. An IUCN report published 12 months after the devastating tsunami of 2004 compared two coastal villages in Sri Lanka that were affected by the disaster. Two people died in the settlement with dense mangrove and scrub forest, while up to 6,000 people died in the village without similar vegetation.



“After the 2004 (Indian Ocean) tsunami, it became evident – particularly in Sri Lanka which was severely impacted – that those villages that had intact mangroves suffered significantly less damage that those that did not,” Silverstein said. “Another advantage of a healthy mangrove ecosystem is that the stilted root systems serve as nurseries for many of the fish species that go on to populate coral reefs.”


Mangroves help sustain healthy fish populations which, in turn, support the sustainable livelihoods of and provide nutrition for millions of small-scale fishermen and their families for multiple generations.


“We are thrilled to play a part in this groundbreaking effort that not only protects Sri Lanka’s mangrove forests but also helps some of Sri Lanka’s poorest citizens find sustainable livelihoods,” said Chairman of Sudeesa, Anuradha Wickramasinghe.


“People live in these areas because they depend on the mangroves because a lot of the fish they catch, come from mangroves,” he said.


Although mangrove displacement is not new, Sri Lanka ‘s protection precedent is coming at a time when the ecosystem is facing threats from many different directions, such as shrimp farming.


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Posted by on June 5, 2015. Filed under Breaking News,EARTH,Srilanka. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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