Building back better in the tsunami zone
Productive and environmentally sustainable solutions needed
Before the tsunami, the affected coastal communities were already among the poorest in their countries. When walls of seawater came crashing down on these vulnerable fishing and farming families six months ago, many saw their meagre livelihoods washed away.
The fisheries sector was worst hit, with total losses estimated at $520 million, but crops, irrigation and drainage infrastructure, livestock and coastal ecosystems, including tree crops, mangroves and other coastal protection barriers, also suffered serious damage.
One challenge facing FAO and its partners is to ensure that reconstruction strategies are environmentally sustainable and do not harm the local ecosystems on which these coastal communities depend for their economic well-being.
Fisheries-related ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds must be protected, and boats, fishing gear and practices should be compatible with responsible fisheries to ensure sustainable long-term fisheries production, according to FAO.
"Few of the external agencies with funds available for reconstruction have the relevant expertise," said Richard China, Rome-based coordinator of FAO's rehabilitation activities. "There is already a danger that many more new boats are being ordered than were lost and with greater capacity than before and that the wrong kinds of fishing nets will be supplied, which will exacerbate the existing problem of over-fishing.".
Another challenge is to ensure that the huge demand for wood for reconstruction does not trigger over-harvesting and illegal logging of forests in the affected countries.
According to FAO, immediate recovery of food production and supply in coastal areas is essential and depends on the restitution of property rights, the rehabilitation of damaged farm land and infrastructure, reclamation of salt-affected soils, appropriate land use planning and the strategic adjustment of cropping systems.
Integrated coastal area management
FAO is promoting an integrated approach to coastal area management that balances the needs of local populations with environmental and natural resource management considerations.
"Efforts to rehabilitate mangrove forests, plant coastal shelterbelts, and replant timber and fruit trees will not only protect human lives and inland assets, but improve household economies," said China. "Forestry, fisheries, agriculture, infrastructure and other concerns have to be addressed hand-in-hand so that conflicts don't arise over competing claims on land."
23 June 2005
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