In Sri Lanka, more than half of the important mangroves are lost. Rapid cutting of mangroves is threatening the incomes of local communities while putting them at increased risk from extreme weather.
When visiting the local communities that live among the mangroves in Galle-Unawatuna, I saw how important the mangroves was for their livelihood. Furthermore, seeing several destroyed houses around the coast of Sri Lanka from the tsunami in 2004, it was obvious that the mangroves had protected and saved many lives during this horrible natural disaster.
However, the mangroves do not only protect against tsunamis. They also work as natural shields against extreme weather conditions such as storms surges and rising sea levels. So the destruction of mangroves endanger lives and expose local communities to natural disasters. When storms come up the local people usually hit their boats between the thick mangrove forests. When the forest disappear this will not be an option.
After the devastating tsunami in 2004 that killed over 30,000 in Sri Lanka, the interest in protecting Sri Lanka’s mangroves grew due to the protection they offered during this disaster. However, as the country recovers from over two decades of civil war, rapid development is now threatening the mangroves.
This result in, besides exposing coastal areas to natural disasters, that the livelihoods of local populations have decreased. As well as increased poverty. The Mangroves bring with it many ecological benefits. One of them is that it provide nursery for fishing. The local communities mostly depend on fish for food and income. But loss of the mangroves, means less fish. The same apply for plants and other animals that is important for their livelihood.
Now, maybe seeing all the consequences of rapid cutting of mangroves. I would like to end with a relevant proverb: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.