In this edition we place an appeal from 350.org, (a global movement that campaigns against climate change), for people all over the world to sign the petition to save the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans that runs through India and Bangladesh, and the Unesco World Heritage Site in Lamu Region in Kenya.
Both are under threat in that the respective governments of India and Bangladesh and Kenya wants to build huge coal powered power stations.
Both these initiatives will be at great cost to the environment, the people, and especially small-scale fishers who use the mangroves and the waterways and rivers to eke out their daily existence.
This is in total disregard for local communities, and seems to be part of the global land and sea-sea grabbing that is presently happening, pushing millions of people off the land and away from the oceans of the world, places in which they have lived for centuries.
In many instances these land grabs and sea grabs make way for the global capitalists to build expensive tourist attractions as relaxation and recreational outlets for the super-rich and powerful of this world.
Otherwise, the mangrove forests are destroyed for the purpose of shrimp farming, which make a few individuals and corporations rich, but forcibly remove communities from their traditional lands and livelihoods.
Mangroves and coastal forests play an important role in the environment, and is a great factor in reducing the damage caused by tsunamis, cyclones, typhoons and tornados.
Following is an extract from the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) website on the benefits of mangroves and coastal forests, (FAO is a United Nations (UN) organisation).
Tsunami mitigation by mangroves and coastal forests
The role of mangroves in providing coastal protection against the actions of waves, wind and water currents in general, is well known. But the extent to which mangrove green belts contribute to saving lives against large tsunamis, such as the recent one in Asia, depends on a number of factors including the height and velocity of the tsunami, the topography and orientation of the coastline, the width of the forest and – to a lesser extent – the height, density and species composition of the forest.
As widely reported, extensive areas of mangroves can reduce the loss of life and damage caused by tsunamis by taking the first brunt of the impact and by dissipating the energy of the wave as it passes through the mangrove area. On the other hand, narrow strips of mangroves, when uprooted or snapped off at mid-trunk and swept inland, can cause extensive property damage and loss of life.
Examples of the positive effects of mangroves and other coastal forests (Casuarina, Pandanus, coconuts etc) in absorbing or reducing the strength of the recent tsunami include the following:
- In Tamil Nadu, India, the trees standing in the front lines were damaged but well established forests such as the Pichavaram mangrove forest acted as a protective belt slowing down the waves and protecting around 1 700 people living in hamlets built inland between 100 to 1 000 meters from the mangroves.
- In Malaysia, in areas where the mangrove forests were intact, there was reduced damage, as reported by the Penang Inshore Fishermen Welfare Association.
- In Indonesia, the death toll in the island of Simeuleu, located close to the epicentre was relatively low, partly due to mangrove forests that surrounded the island.
- Large mangrove forests mitigated the force of the tsunami in Phang Nga province (Thailand) where the inland territories were only slightly damaged.
- Low impact was observed behind a 100m mangrove strip in Medilla (Sri Lanka, RUK area), behind an elevated beach with coconuts and behind a tall sand dune stabilised by a Casuarina plantation.
Similar examples exist of the positive role played by mangroves and coastal forests as buffer zones during past natural hazards, such as the 1999 cyclone in the eastern coastal state of Orissa (India); the 1991 cyclone and tidal wave in Bangladesh; and the typhoon Wukong in Viet Nam in 2000.
On the other hand, mangroves and other coastal trees were uprooted and snapped off at mid trunk level and caused extensive damage when swept inland by a tidal wave in PNG in 1998.
You can read this article here:
Letter from 350.org
The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest, running through India and Bangladesh and forming a crucial natural defence against cyclones — and a huge new coal plant puts it in danger.
The Bangladesh government has cut a deal with India to build a 1320 Megawatt coal plant on the border of the forest and is refusing to back down — no matter the cost to the people nearby, or the country’s climate future. It’s time that their recklessness be called out on a global stage.
The Rampal coal plant would require transporting millions of tons of coal through narrow waterways, and further erode the forest’s cyclone protections — not to mention put surrounding communities at risk of toxic pollution of every kind.
In Kenya, the region of Lamu which is home to a rich ecological and cultural diversity and already recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site is also under threat, following the governmental plan to build a $ 2 billion coal-fired power plant. That project is likely to cause health damages to communities, contaminate water resources and decimate mangrove forests of this region rich in both ecological and cultural diversity.
In the past, India and Bangladesh have committed to protect Sundarbans forest as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO has the power to list the forest as a ‘World Heritage Site in Danger’ and send an international signal to the Indian and Bangladeshi governments that they cannot continue to put coal and profit above the communities that live in and around the mangrove forests.
Both India and Bangladesh are pushing to keep the Sundarbans off this list — so it’s up to us to push back. Ask UNESCO to include the Sundarbans Forest in the World Heritage Sites in Danger list.
On the ground, local communities in India, Bangladesh and Kenya are fighting back. Resistance against coal projects is growing. In Bangladesh, they’ve organized two long marches of thousands of people to oppose the plant, organised a boat chain, and have kept up a long fight locally to defend their land and future. But a global message is needed to support them:
Ask UNESCO to list Sundarbans Forest as a World Heritage Site in Danger.
In Kenya, Save Lamu, a coalition of over 30 community organizations based in Lamu County, is actively combating the project. Beside meetings held with government, community and religious leaders, Save Lamu is also focusing on community outreach programmes like educational talks, door-to-door mobilisation and screening of coal related documentaries. The campaign has organised radio talk shows where medical experts detailed the impacts of coal on people’s health and well-being. In collaboration with 350 Kenya, Save Lamu will be soon utilizing activism tactics for stronger mobilizations, especially towards youths.
Today, we are calling on all concerned governments to take immediate corrective measures. Shutting down work at the Rampal coal plant and halting plans of building the Lamu coal plant– and rather work for a more secure climate future for one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.
350 Africa-Arab Team
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