Sri Lanka’s Government Declares Protection for its Mangrove Lagoons

Sri Lanka’s Government Declares Protection for its Mangrove Lagoons

By Naoto  Miyacchi

Mangrove Forest Function

Mangrove forests have attracted considerable interest recently with the variety of potential benefits, such as carbon sequestration and providing food, fuel and fiber to local communities. Mangroves, which thrive in the mixture of sea and freshwater along coastlines, help maintain sea levels and hold back storm surges, forming a barrier to protect coastal area, as highlighted by the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. Mangrove forests filter pollutants in runoff and preserve the purity of coastal waters, nurturing the surrounding environment. Mangrove lagoons are also home to a variety of species such as birds, fish and mammals – some of them highly endangered.

Mangrove Deforestation

Over the past decades mangroves have seen a massive reduction, mostly replaced by industrial shrimp farming ponds worldwide. We have already lost an estimated 3 million hectares of important coastal wetlands in order to make room for the artificial shrimp ponds. The mangrove destruction due to industrial shrimp farming development has caused various problems to the ecosystem – climate change, higher flood risk, groundwater pollution, salinization of coastal soils and so forth. Mangrove conservation has become a critical factor now more than ever to keep this crisis from growing.

Sri Lanka’s New Movement on Mangrove Protection

Sri Lanka’s new government took the unprecedented, historic action to protect all of its mangroves. The move, the first action of its kind worldwide, has bonded the governmental, international funding agencies and NGOs, and natural resource management activists together to provide remarkable financial support for numerous mangrove projects aiming to improve ecosystems and protect species and property against coastal disasters. These mangrove projects have taken a variety of approaches including mangrove conservation and restoration, planting of mangrove bioshields and a mangrove education program. This movement, with the local community and government working together, will provide not only long-term environmental, social and economic benefits to maintain ecosystem health and productivity and its contribution to biodiversity but also a model for other vulnerable tropical nations to follow.

It’s Time to Think about Mangrove Deforestation

Lastly, we’re hoping that this mangrove protection move keeps growing bigger and bigger worldwide, and that it encourages everyone involved in mangrove deforestation activities to direct their attention to responsible projects to protect and rebuild mangroves and mangrove communities.

For more information

Why Sri Lanka’s Historic Mangroves Move Matters: