SHWE THAUNG YAN, Myanmar, Jan four 2019 (IPS) – Htay Aung is having a second. The 63-year-old retired professor of Marine Science sits on the foot of a Buddha statue atop a hill on Shwe Thaung Yan sub township, in Myanmar’s Ayyerwady area, virtually in meditation. Under him, an enormous thicket of mangrove glistens in the gold of a setting solar. For Aung, this stretch of mangroves—referred to as the Thor Heyerdahl Local weather Park—is a logo of pleasure, hope and all issues good.
“We gave three years of hard work in planting these trees. Now they are growing tall. Soon, they will be the biggest assets of our people,” he says, pointing on the forest and the tiny dot of homes that seem in the horizon.
Mangroves in Myanmar
This mangrove forest is unfold throughout an space of two,557 sq. kilometres (km)—virtually the dimensions of Luxembourg.
Nevertheless, in most locations, the density is wafer skinny because of rampant clearing of the mangroves for area to breed shrimps and for firewood and so forth. In response to a current research by Pierre Taillerdat, Massimo Lupascu and Daniel Friess, Myanmar loses about 21 sq. km of its mangrove forest annually.
Shwe Thaung Yan, about 185 km north west of Yangon, as soon as had a severely degraded forest the place 75 % of its mangroves had been destroyed.
Then the story modified.
In 2015, simply earlier than the rains got here, a motley crowd of some hundred males, ladies and youths from the fishing villages, sporting shinny plastic gumboots and carrying sling sacks full of mangrove saplings, gathered alongside the muddy swamp in Myagi—one of many three villages beneath Shwe Thaung Yan.
For a number of hours a day, they planted the saplings in the muddy soil made fertile and nutrient wealthy by common tides.
By October of that yr, that they had planted over 700,000 timber on three sq. km of land.
Since then, the plantation drive has taken place annually. By the top of October 2018, the group planted six million timber in three villages of beneath Shew Thaung Yan, masking 9 sq. km of land—an space over 4 occasions greater than the town of Monaco.
Main the planters from the entrance, apart from Aung have been Uboni and Aung Aung Myint, specialists in mangrove analysis and costal ecosystems restoration. The three are presently related to Worldview Worldwide Basis (WIF)—a Norwegian charity co-founded by Arne Fjortoft, a former journalist turned politician and a famend environmentalist.
“We used the satellite images, studied the images meticulously and created a map that shows the exact patches in the mangrove forest that had gone bare. We shared this information with the villagers. We also marked the areas and divided the planters in several groups and assigned each group a certain area,” Uboni tells IPS.
Earlier than the plantation began, WIF entered into an lively partnership with Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and two of the nation’s main instructional establishments, Myeik and Pathein universities. The land space for planting mangroves—over 7 sq. km in all—was offered by Pathein College, which can also be concerned in learning marine science alongside the coast of Shwe Thaung Yan.
Mitigating Local weather Change
Mangroves make up solely zero.7 % of the world’s forests, however they’ve the potential to retailer about 2.5 occasions as a lot CO2 as people produce globally annually. A 2017 research estimated that the whole quantity of carbon held in the world’s mangroves was round four.2 billion tonnes. If this entire quantity have been launched as CO2, it might be equal to the annual emissions of China and america put collectively.
One other research stated that Myanmar’s mangroves — which is three % of worldwide mangrove forests, exhibits “huge (blue carbon) potential if conservation can prevent further emissions from their loss and encourage future carbon sequestration through restoration.” So, blue carbon mitigation on the nationwide scale “is well aligned with the Paris Agreement and associated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for some nations,” the research says.
Cameron Keith Richards, professor at Southern Cross College, Australia, visited Thor Heyerdahl Local weather Park in 2016 to guage the mangrove restoration and its blue carbon inventory. In his validation report, which helped the venture qualify for promoting its carbon shares, Richards summarised the challenge saying that it was “reasonably assumed to represent an overall 4.3 million tons of C02 within a 20-year lifecycle of the current trees and additional trees to be planted in the project.”
Shew Thaung Yan is primarily a fishing sub township the place catching and promoting of fish stay the supply of sustenance for its almost 11,000-strong group.
Nevertheless, the mangrove challenge has opened methods for various livelihoods and skill-building alternatives for the group: through the monsoon when there’s little or no fishing in the ocean, the group members earn wages by planting mangrove saplings in the forests round them.
Ladies of the village have additionally began a clam farming collective–a primary for the group. The collective which presently has 55 members, is operating from a website that was earlier used as a nursery for rising mangrove saplings. The ladies go to the mangrove forest the place they acquire clams and convey it again to the farm the place every of them have a 6 to 10 ft enclosure which might be frequently flooded by the tidal waves. The clams have been “sowed’ into the slushy farm soil, where they will thrive and grow fat, feeding on the nutrients brought by the tides.
This is a zero-investment livelihood initiative that promises local women a good earning opportunity, explains Shwe Sandar Oo, the coordinator of the farming project. “The land is free, the clams are free and we have already connected them to buyers,” she tells IPS. The consumers, she says, are hoteliers in Chaung Tha, a seashore city fashionable amongst home and overseas vacationers. Massive, fleshy clams are excessive in demand among the many vacationers and often fetch half a greenback every.
Thein Thein Nwe, one of many clam farmers says that it’s the zero-investment that drew her to the collective. Earlier this yr, Nwe’s eldest daughter dropped out of faculty at grade 10, after she did not cross her grade 10 exams. With the revenue she earns from her clam farm, the 42-year-old fisherwoman now hopes to ship her daughter to a personal coach, so she might retake the exams.
Many in the village of Maygi have acquired clear cookstoves and photo voltaic lamps offered by WIF. The village has a media centre the place school-going youngsters of the village are studying numerous expertise together with primary pc operations, images and embroidery. Run by WIF, the centre gives scholarship woman college students who’re promising however too poor to afford tuition charges.
Strategy to the Future
As 2019 begins, the planters in Shwe Thaung Yan are gearing as much as plant two billion timber–their largest plantation drive up to now. As soon as completed, restoration drive of Shwe Thaung Yan can be full and the restored forest would retailer 300 million tonnes of CO2, Uboni says. “After this, we are going to Yangon Division and also the delta division. So, in the new year, we will go to Bago and Mon state to plant mangrove,” he pronounces.
Aung, however, is extra targeted on the underwater marine life, particularly conserving the seagrass and the coral mattress each of which can be found in the ocean round Shwe Thaung Yan.
“The seagrass can stock much more blue carbon than the land trees or mangrove. It is also what feeds Dugong or sea cow—a critically endangered sea mammal. So, with the help of WIF and Pathein University, we now aim is to build a marine sanctuary around Shwe Thaung Yan,” he says.
The thought has acquired the approval of Daw Si Si Hla Bu, the rector of Pathein College. “I want to see our university making significant contribution to coastal ecosystem restoration,” Hla Bu tells IPS.
Arne Fjortoft tells IPS that the funding for the proposed marine sanctuary might be raised from promoting off the carbon inventory of mangrove forests. For Fjortoft, nevertheless, the mangrove restoration, vocational trainings, clam farming and marine life conservation are all a part of an enormous, single image: “The final goal here is to help bring sustainable development for 12 million people of the country’s coastal communities. And that’s the future we are hoping to see.”
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