Sri Lanka wields mangroves, its tsunami shield, against climate change, summarized from Mongabay News, September 2019

Compendium Volume 3 Number 2 January 2020

Sri Lanka is home to 82 lagoons and estuaries and is among the top five countries that will be impacted by climate risk. Thilakaratne De Silva, a 63-year old local fisherman, saw the Tsunami of December 2004 sweep off half his home village. He was among the first to join hands with other community members on a coastal natural buffer initiative of replanting the mangroves. In the aftermath of the tsunami, it became apparent that those who lived behind a thick buffer of mangrove forest were better shielded from the destructive waves.

The government and NGOs initiated the mangrove replanting, as well as implementing regulations aimed at curbing mangrove clearing, coral reef destruction and sand excavation. But after the Government and NGOs moved on, it’s been the local community’s engagement and consistency that is ensuring the success of a green belt along the south coast.

The critical goal now is to sustain the positive conservation effort already in place. Sustainable use enables gathering of edible mangrove varieties and collecting twigs and branches rather than cutting down trees and shrubs, according to Sarathchandra de Silva, an international agency worker involved in the replanting program.

Sugunawathi, a 51-year-old villager says that they are mindful of not cutting mangrove for fuelwood, though the burning efficiency of mangrove is preferred to forest wood, gas or kerosene. The frequency and extent to which communities access mangrove forest has much to do with poverty and lack of livelihood. However, growing tourism employs more rural men, creating livelihoods and boosting mangrove appreciation by the local community. A local NGO has sought to incentivize women because of their influence on children and the community on the need for the sustainable use of mangroves. The Galle success is now a model for replication, which inspires authorities to want to boost coastal buffer owning to the resilient nature of mangrove forest in climate risk, with an addition of 10,000 hectares to the existing 15,670 hectares already in place.

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 3 Number 2 January 2020