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Mangroves that saved Kendhikulhudhoo from tsunami under threat now

26 December 2010 No Comment

Bluepeace, the environmental NGO from Maldives, has posted on its blog that mangroves which saved an island in Noonu Atoll of Maldives from the tsunami are under threat from an illegal aquaculture project. Bluepeace reports an alien species of sea cucumber is harvested in mangroves of Kendhikulhudhoo and excavation and modification of the mangroves are going on. According to Bluepeace, the mangroves in the island mitigated the impact of the tsunami by absorbing the waves.

Six years ago, on 26 December 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami created havoc across the Maldives, coral reefs, coastal vegetation and mangroves played a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of the tsunami, reducing the force of the deadly waves. In the island of Kendhikulhudhoo in Noonu Atoll, mangroves formed in a depression of an islet, known locally as kulhi, absorbed much of the impact of the tsunami, saving the island from destruction of property and loss of human lives. However, the mangroves in Kendhikulhudhoo are now under threat as an illegal aquaculture project is being carried out to harvest an alien species of sea cucumber.

Bluepeace first received the information about the illegal aquaculture project in early 2009 and raised concern with the relevant government authorities. The issue was also covered by Minivan News. A similarillegal aquaculture project being conducted in Maalhendhoo, an inhabited island located near Kendhikulhudhoo, was exposed by local photographer Ali Nishan (Millzero) on his blog.

We have received information from our sources in Kendhikulhudhoo that the illegal aquaculture project has reached an appalling stage with modification of the structure of the mangroves through extensive excavation. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed to Bluepeace that to this date no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been submitted to EPA for approval to conduct an aquaculture project in Kendhikulhudhoo or Maalhendhoo.

Most of the native plants in the Maldives, including the plants that grow on the coastal vegetation belt around islands, are very salt tolerant. This was quite visible in the 2004 Asia’s tsunami disaster, most of the native plants survived leaving dead all the introduced and naturalized plants in tsunami-affected islands.

Mangroves with hanging long branches reaching into sand and below the surface of water absorb the shock of tsunamis. Behind mangrove trees is a second layer of taller native plants, which slow down the waves. Mangrove roots with aerial roots and salt-filtering tap roots not only provide support in uneven soils but hold up currents and storms.

After the tsunami, international aid agencies poured thousands of dollars for disaster preparedness programmes in the Maldives. The programmes, conducted in collaboration with government agencies, have not spared vital mangrove ecosystems – an essential protective shield against tsunamis, storm surges, tidal waves and climate change – from destruction.

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