Mangroves planted to act as buffer against sea

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The Independent Online

Governments of the countries worst hit by last month's catastrophic tsunami have announced plans to plant mangrove forests along their coasts, after being convinced that they save lives.

Governments of the countries worst hit by last month's catastrophic tsunami have announced plans to plant mangrove forests along their coasts, after being convinced that they save lives.

The plans, which may also revitalise fisheries around the Indian Ocean, follow decades in which thick coastal wetland forests have been felled to make way for tourism, shrimp farms to supply Western tables and other developments.

Evidence first reported in The Independent on Sunday two weeks ago shows that areas where mangroves remained suffered remarkably few casualties: the forests acted as a living buffer.

Five villages on the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province were saved, a report said, and only four people died on Simeuleu Island, where the mangroves had been preserved, even though it is only 30 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake that caused the tsunami on Boxing day. Malam Sambat Kaban, the forestry minister pledged to restore 1.5 million acres of mangroves.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's Prime Minister, called for its mangroves to remain untouched, while Thailand is to complete its rehabilitation plan this week. In Sri Lanka, the government was seeking to ban mangrove destruction, and in India an official commission said it should plant a "bioshield" of vegetation along its coasts.

In areas of the world where mangroves have been removed, the coastline has been subject to rapid erosion.

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