Mangroves failed to protect coastal villages in ‘04 tsunami – INQ7.net
“The World Conservation Union, also known as IUCN, and other nongovernmental organizations earlier reported that mangroves saved lives in Sri Lanka and India — a finding they said could motivate hard-hit communities across Asia to consider replanting mangroves.
A quarter of mangroves have been destroyed in tsunami-impacted countries since the 1980s due to development and the rapid growth of shrimp and fish farms.
But Baird, of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, and his co-authors argued that governments would be better off putting their resources into an early warning system and evacuation plans. They also called for many coastal communities to be moved to higher ground.”
Obviously, this is quite controversial. I have nothing against mangroves or coastal remediation, which should be done in any case. The value of the debate this finding is likely to initiate is that it will help us to figure out what really saves lives and focus our limited disaster preparedness resources on those actions.
However, there may be no debate. Scientific evidence exists that the elephants of Yala showed no change in behavior as a result of the tsunami. However, no one engaged in debate on this and the theory that animals have an extra sense to perceive oncoming tsunamis is now common wisdom. People seem to want to believe these kinds of stories because they mesh with some primal narrative of the superiority of “natural” living.
The animal myth is not harmful because it does not misallocate resources. The mangrove myth (if the research in this article is not refuted, I will call it a myth) could be harmful because real policy actions are riding on it.