Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mangrove losses raising risks in South Asia

Amantha Perera in AlertNet: Rapid destruction of South Asia’s mangroves, which act as a buffer against extreme weather conditions such as storm surges and rising sea levels, is endangering lives and livelihoods in the region, experts say.

Asia is home to 41 percent of the world’s mangroves, but in countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India they are fast disappearing. Ajanta Dey, a project director at the Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society, a Kolkata-based organisation that works on environmental and sustainable livelihood issues in eastern India, says her organisation believes at least 40 percent of Asia’s mangroves have been lost in the last 50 years.

...Preserving mangroves is important because they can act as a natural shield against storm surges and other severe weather. Most are also rich biodiversity hotspots, harbouring fish, shellfish and other animals that can provide food and income for people in the area.

But in Pakistan, over 80 percent of the mangrove cover has been lost in the last 80 years, according to the Pakistan office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  Mangrove forests that once covered over 600,000 hectares are now reduced to around 86,000 hectares. And such mangrove losses are now spreading increasingly across South Asia, including to India and Bangladesh’s coastal Sundarbans region, and to regions of Sri Lanka undergoing rapid development after years of conflict....

Mangroves in the Sundarbans, shot by Ashif Anam Siddique (Ruesho), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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