Early warning and/or mangroves

Posted on September 18, 2008  /  1 Comments

Few weeks back, I was in Davos, with Peter Anderson and Natasha Udu-gamaNuwan Waidyanatha, the man who carried the HazInfo Last Mile Project on his broad shoulders was there in spirit too.  We were there to tell the world about the project and learn about how early warning fits into the big picture of disaster risk reduction.

And we did.  Strangely enough, I learned more from one off-print lying on a table than the entire whole conference on the subject that brought me to Davos.  The second author happens to be  a friend of mine teaching at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, but that was not why.

It was just a very good review of the massive scientific literature coming out of the analysis of the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami addressing a central policy question about whether we should pour limited resources into growing mangroves and other “barriers” along the coasts or whether we should allocate them to solve the hard problems of early warning and preparedness.  The answer, like most answers in the policy world, was not unequivocally this or that.  It leaned on the early warning side, much to my satisfaction, but also pointed out that without paying attention to the coastal environments, the people whose lives are saved by early warning and preparedness will have no livelihoods.  I had been kind of skeptical about the mangrove story, so it was gratifying to see meta-analysis of masses of research fully support the gut conclusion.

But still, the main conclusion was dead-on with the holistic approach always impressed upon the team by Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, based on the Sarvodaya philosophy.  We at LIRNEasia have a comparative advantage with early warning and it will truly save lives if properly implemented, but we have to keep the larger context in mind.  Otherwise, the people whose lives are saved will rot in government camps with no livelihoods to go back to.

But anyway, that was not the only thing that happened in Davos.  We conducted a session on the project that attracted a quality audience, even if the quantity left much to be desired.  We got on the ISDR radar screen.  If this results in the broader dissemination of our research, the trip would have been well worth it (apologies to the beautiful mountains of Davos).

1 Comment

  1. a. Community participation for Tsunami mitigation projects:

    (1) Ecosystem restoration initiatives: Out of the nine ecosystem restoration sites six were mangrove restoration sites and two were beach scrub restoration and one home garden restoration initiatives. The most successful scientific mangrove restoration initiative was observed in the affected mangrove at Kahandamodara and Wellodaya extending over an area of 100 m x 300 m. This restored patch was well maintained as well, with a fence erected to protect the seeding from free roaming cattle and buffaloes. In other remaining sites were poorly maintained by the community. Free roaming cattle and buffaloes have trampled many seeding planted in these sites. The restoration of home gardens in Modaragama and Pattiyagodalla areas is successful initiates, where economically useful plants species (Timber, vegetables, medical plants, fruit plants ect.) have been replanted and maintained.

    Further, there were identified some issues relating to the coastal reconstruction activities.

    (a) Construction of bi-roads across the lagoon outlets at Rekewa and Medilla area.

    (b) Dumping of rubble and garbage into lagoons/estuaries/mangroves/marshes Ex: Rekawa, Walipatanwila east

    (c) Clearing of coastal scrub and mangrove for expansion of tourist hotels and for resettlements at Ussangoda

    (d) Sand mining

    (e) Spread of invasive alien plant species. Ex: cactus, Opuntia

    (2) Restoration of mangroves: Observation in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami revealed that mangroves are capable of effectively absorbed the energy in waves and performed a coastal defence function. Instead of expensive engineering structures in coastal protection Mangroves has been identified as a protection strategy based on natural defensive capacity of coastal vegetation as well as serve as a wind breaker for sea breeze. Mangroves are primarily used for light timber requirement and firewood. Non-wood products, bark, leaves, fruits (to make beverages) honey, wax are collected from mangrove ecosystems.

    With all the tangible and intangible benefits, they are being destroyed and areas reclaimed for other uses such as human settlements, urban development, industries, farms, highways and dumping grounds of solid waste. Hence, a mechanism is launched to obtain the local community participation and support for restoration.

    (3) Environmental aspects of resettlements sites: Most of the resettlement sites appeared to be barren, with no either tree cover. A good greening programme was observed only in Kelanigama and Suchi resettlement sites. Most sites lacked adequate measures to facilitate the drainage of storm water and clear signs of soil erosion were observed in many sites. Since no roads are tarred or concreted during the rainy season hardly use the bi-roads in the sites.

    No programme to manage solid waste yet to be initiated while an open garbage dump closer to Siribipura resettlement cluster has resulted in human wildlife conflicts. As well as some resettlement sites are located in elephant migratory pathways. There it was found some houses have been damaged due to the elephant attacks.

    In some resettlement projects were initiated with a percentage contribution by its own households. Some have not taken to interest to complete their house and not settled down yet. This has become an issue in the security aspect of the few who live in these new settlements.

    b. Recommendations on community friendly measures to be implemented.

    (1) Ecosystem restoration initiatives and environmental aspects of resettlements sites: Most of the issues highlighted here are consequences of weak governance at the local level, poor coordination in relation to coastal zone management at the district level as well as national levels and lack of scientific & community approaches for the prioritization and implementation of suitable coastal ecosystem restoration initiatives.

    The following recommendations are proposed to address post Tsunami coastal environmental issues into coastal zone rehabilitation activities.

    (a) Mainly increase participatory and integrated management by establishing local level environmental committees for the affected areas, chaired by local administrators, and comprising members of government departments who have the mandates, municipal councils, local NGOs/ CBOs, the Police. These committees should be mandated to identify and address the issues. (This has identified by the Disaster Management Act and emphasized to expedite the implementation immediately).

    (b) Enforce existing coastal laws and regulations. Promote coastal zone environmental awareness at the local levels. Such programmes should highlight prevailing environmental issues and how healthy coastal ecosystems could improve resilience of coastal communities to natural disasters.

    (c) Implement participatory programmes based on scientific approaches to manage the spread of invasive alien species. These could be monitored by the local established committees.

    (d) Promote local livelihoods- such as organic home gardening.

    (e) Introduce incentives to encourage coastal environmental conservation and sustainable livelihood activities.

    (f) Ensure that this process does not have a gender bias.

    (1) Identify the relationship between Tsunami preparedness and community lifestyle:

    (1) Human intervention is identified as the best practice guidelines on restoration of mangroves which was one of the main natural barriers against the last Tsunami. The community should be educated of the importance of restoration efforts and should be made part of the team of monitors/protectors.

    (2) Mobilization of local communities for mangroves restoration. Members particularly of the fishing community can take part in seedling, setting up mangrove nurseries and their maintenance, ground preparation, planting and after care operations.

    (3) Participants from the community may be paid daily wedge that is slightly higher than that the labours engaged in land based activities.