Friday, June 2, 2023

Climate change is strengthening cyclones

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By Lalji Jayswal

Mangroves are rare flora with a capacity to tolerate salt water. It is due to these destruction of tsunamis, cyclones and storms in the coastal areas is reduced to a great extent. According to a United Nations report, the tropical cyclone Amphon that hit India last year was the worst ever. India lost 14 billion dollars 

(one lakh crore rupees) in this. No less destructive can be said of the cyclone Tökte that came in the Arabian Sea on the previous day. Recently, NASA’s Landset satellite image showed that the sea level in Sundarbans has increased by an average of 3.6 millimeters every year in the last two decades. It has been estimated from the satellite image that the maximum average temperature in the Sundarbans has increased and the sea temperature of the Bay of Bengal has been increasing by 0.019 degree centigrade every year. According to current estimates by 2050, the temperature in the Sunderbans will increase by one degree centigrade.

In fact, if compared, we will find that the erosion of mangrove forests has been abundant in recent years. Although, legal restrictions have been imposed on the use of land in mangrove areas for other purposes, mangrove forests are still not safe. About a quarter of India is covered by forests. Various types of forests are found in the country, out of which tropical rain forest, deciduous forest, mountain forest, thorny shrubs are prominent. One of the types of forests found in India is mangrove forests, which act as a wall between the sea and the mainland, that is to say, mangrove forests act as a buffer zone between the sea and the land. They also play the role of protector in times of sea earthquake or cyclone, their presence is very helpful in reducing the impact of such a disaster.

However, we have also realized the importance of coastal forests in the 2004 tsunami. During the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, the areas where, there were mangrove forests left, the waves had less havoc. By the way, the geographical spread of India is such that the country is surrounded by sea on all three sides and a large part of it is hit by cyclones and tsunamis almost every year. Mangrove forest contributes greatly to natural disasters like cyclones and tsunamis. But today, due to climate change, the death rate of plants in these areas has increased. A recent UN report has expressed concern about the condition of such forests, calling for them to be protected. In this way, all types of forests are cut fast, but this report shows that the speed of destruction of mangrove forests has been much higher. Coastal forests are cut three to five times faster than normal forest areas. But their reproducibility is decreasing. 

The special thing is that today, humans have considered it more appropriate to offer environment for their economic benefit and their aspirations and the mindset of economic development, going against the environment itself, is increasing. The result of this is that mangrove forests have been cleaned for a long time, for agricultural land, for the development of tourism areas, for shrimp farming and for the production of salt. It has always been argued that these activities are economically more profitable, but the fact has been ignored that the economic benefits from shrimp production are for a short time, while the environmental and cultural losses are large and Long lasting effects. Thousands of hectares of mangrove weeds have been harvested for artificial shrimp farming areas. The damage caused by human to mangrove forests is mainly in the form of erosion of trees for land, fuel and timber for agriculture and shrimp production.

It is noteworthy that today the biodiversity of Mangrove areas has decreased due to indiscriminate hunting of fish in the sea and exploitation of marine resources due to other economic reasons. Forty percent of mangrove areas have been cleared for agricultural work in the last three decades. The result is that thirty-five percent of the world’s mangrove areas are already depleted and are being depleted more rapidly than the rest of the tropical forests. It can be inferred from the fact that between 1987 and 1997, twenty two thousand four hundred hectares of mangrove forests were destroyed in Andaman and Nicobar in a decade. All this has not happened naturally, but due to indiscriminate exploitation. The same is true of the Sundarbans, a part of which comes in India and the rest in Bangladesh. Mangrove flora has been eliminated on a wide scale due to the availability of agricultural land. Due to the construction of dams and the use of water for irrigation, the water from the rivers into the mangrove forests has decreased, which has increased the salinity in the forest areas and the problem has become more complicated.

Today, Mangrove forests are drying up due to lack of water, due to which Sundarbans are seen losing their natural image. Therefore, given the importance of mangrove forest, a need is felt to take special steps at both national and international levels. The uncontrolled exploitation of mangrove forests has threatened coastal populations as well as many wild species. If this trend continues, the UN report says that mangroves will survive only in the next seven-eight decades. According to the report, ecological degradation is estimated to be more than economic loss, which cannot be compensated. Because this is the forest, which protects the coastal areas from the disastrous consequences of tidal waves and cyclones. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate the development of mangrove forests in a fixed time interval with respect to their conservation. Also, there is a great need for regional participation at all levels in conservation, policy making and maintenance etc. of mangrove forests. Consequently, the revival work will get more strength from participation.

However, adopting an artificial method for revival of mangrove forests can also prove to be effective. Seeds or plants are first planted in the artificial process, after which small plants made by germinating seeds can be planted in new areas in the nursery. In which Rhizophora apiculata, Soneraceae elva, Heritiera, Candelia candel species selection and plantation will prove to be very useful for coastal protection from cyclones. Surely it would require a lot of labor. But this will also restore the vegetation amplification in the area. It is known that this is an expensive and complicated process, but it has many benefits. Thus the types of plant species and their distribution densities in artificially regenerated mangrove areas can be controlled directly. Together, genetically improved varieties of plants can also be grown.In this way desolate mangrove areas can be successfully regenerated, which will not only protect against the macro-effects of various types of cyclones, but also help in keeping biodiversity at bay. For example, in India, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, the protection of the coast has already been greatly benefited by the entry of the species Sonateria apetala, Avicennia officinalis, and Rhizophora. Even Rhizophora species are capable of withstanding the rapid flow of air, and Rhizophora species can cope well with the excess carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere.

As a result, planting of Rhizophora plants can be beneficial in keeping with global climate changes and it will also protect coastal areas from cyclonic storms. Significantly, the Indian Sundarbans is slowly shrinking today but human encroachment is still safe compared to Bangladesh. Experts say that the velocity of cyclonic storms decreases by sixty percent here. If the mangrove areas are preserved, the cyclone storms as well as the magnitude of disasters such as tsunamis can be reduced.

(Author is journalist, writer, columnist, blogger, physical yoga instructor and National record holder (“India book of records”2021) . The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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