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Six presentations on current initiatives on coastal forest management for forest protection were discussed by government representatives (Forestry Department of Sri Lanka and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) and by officers of national and international organizations (UN/ISDR, Wetlands International, IUCN and SAARC).

Brief descriptions of the aforesaid presentations are given below; the full power-point presentation is available on the CD of this proceedings.

UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR): Mr Akshat Chaturvedi, Programme Officer of UN/ISDR, reported on the organization’s strategy for disaster risk reduction and environmental management; he also provided a summary of its mission and its main objectives as well as some of the current activities and outputs.

Green Coast project: Mr Vikmuthi Weeratunga, Biodiversity Coordinator of the World Conservation Union, provided relevant information on the “Green Coast for Nature and People after the Tsunami” project, an international partnership of four international nature conservation and environmental organizations (IUCN, Both Ends, WWF and Wetlands International), supported by Novib/Oxfam and the Netherlands. The project aims at rehabilitating local livelihoods through sustainable restoration and management of coastal ecosystems affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The project will be implemented in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Mangroves for the Future initiative: Mr Vikmuthi Weeratunga, IUCN’s Biodiversity Coordinator, presented a brief introduction of the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) initiative. This multi-agency initiative has the main goal of conserving and restoring mangroves and other coastal ecosystems as key assets which support human well-being and security in the Indian Ocean region. In April 2006, the initiative was endorsed by UN representatives from all the tsunami-affected countries. The initiative will be implemented in six countries: India, Indonesia, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives.

Forestry Programme for Early Rehabilitation of Tsunami-Affected Areas in Sri Lanka: Mr Ananda Wijesooriya, Senior Deputy Conservator of Forests of the Forest Department (Sri Lanka) provided information on the state of the art of the Sri Lankan component of the programme, which is implemented in six districts of the southern and eastern provinces of the country. The project supports the restoration of local people’s livelihoods and contributes to improving their protection from future hazards.

Tsunami events in Peninsular Malaysia — intensified research and development to establish vegetation for coastal protection: Dr Shamsudin (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia [FRIM]) reported on recent research activities conducted by FRIM in trying to establish improved planting techniques to enhance the survival of planted seedlings in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Although the effectiveness of mangroves in protecting lives and properties depends very much on the distance from the epicentre of a tsunami, the presence of mangroves in northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia proved to be effective in reducing tsunami impacts.

As part of its post-tsunami programmes, the government initiated a special task force to re-examine the condition of mangroves along coastal areas, especially those that are identified as vulnerable to future tsunamis. Most of the coastal areas in the east and west coast of Peninsular Malaysia are subject to different degrees of erosion.

Areas that are exposed to severe erosion are unstable in supporting mangrove vegetation and some form of hard structure, for example, geo-tubes, is necessary to alleviate strong wave action. The placement of geo-tubes approximately 100 to 150 metres seaward provides a sufficient area of mudflats to be rehabilitated with mangroves. However, planting of mangroves within these areas poses many challenges because the substrate is very soft and liquid and cannot support seedlings.

The concept of planting in these areas is different from normal planting practices in productive mangrove, where the muddy substrate is more stable for supporting seedlings and very often the planting strips are sheltered and surrounded by mature mangroves trees. FRIM was given the task of conducting research in trying to rehabilitate such areas with different species of mangroves. If successful, 100 to 150 metres of mudflats will act as a buffer that offers additional protection to coastal areas besides the placement of geo-tubes.

Upcoming activities of the SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre related to coastal protection: Mr Mohamed Ali, Director of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Coastal Zone Management Centre, reported on the background for the establishment of the centre (on 25 June 2005), on its structure, terms of reference, priority areas in the region and the activity programme for 2006.

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