In November, two back-to-back international summits gave a thumbs up to mangroves- highlighting the vital role that mangrove forests will play in reducing carbon as the world fights to stave off an impending climate crisis.
At the COP27 meet in Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) was launched by the UAE and Indonesia with the aim of conserving and restoring mangrove forests. India, Australia, Japan, Spain, and Sri Lanka joined the MAC as active supporters.Within days of COP27, the G20 Summit at Bali, Indonesia, gave another impetus to conserving and promoting mangroves in the fight against climate change. Indonesia also promised to restore 600,000 hectares of mangrove forests for itself.
What is the Global Mangrove Alliance?
The GMA seeks to increase the area under mangroves through conservation and restoration by bringing together stakeholders like governments, NGOs, scientists, local communities and funders. An annual report by the GMA, 'The State of The World's Mangroves 2022', says that a total of 5,245 sq km of mangrove forests have been lost since 1996 due to various human impacts like clearing of forests, land use change and soil erosion.
To ensure that the world gets more mangroves, the GMA seeks to undertake the following actions:
Halt mangrove loss that has been exacerbated due to human activities
Implement science-based restoration with local engagement and participation
Increase awareness about mangroves and share experiences and information within the alliance
G20 and mangroves
A few days after the COP27 climate change summit, the G20 summit saw world leaders including US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plant mangrove saplings at the Grand Forest Park (Tahura), Ngurah Rai.
For Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the G20 summit presented an opportunity to showcase his country's success in mangrove rehabilitation. He told his guests that Ngurah Rai Tahura was a success story of how an area without fish was rehabilitated, restored and brought to health by planting mangrove forests.
The beaming President stressed that restoring mangroves would play a vital role in tackling climate change and invited the G20 countries to collaborate in real action for forest development as the G20 countries control about 80 per cent of the world economy and also release an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and plastic pollution.
Why so much fuss over mangroves?
Mangroves are hardy coastal forests - a community of varied plants - which grow in tidal and muddy areas. They serve as a transition between land and marine environments and consist of trees and vegetation that act as barriers to multiple natural problems like land erosion and protection from waves. They also protect against sea level rise and help in mitigating the effects of cyclones and storms.
Mangrove forests thrive in saline and brackish water and are believed to absorb more carbon emissions than regular forests, sustain coastal communities and ensure food security. Fishes love mangroves as the roots of these forests provide food and a safe environment.
With the climate clock ticking fast, there is a serious push to preserve and grow more mangroves.
Worldwide mangroves are found in 123 countries including Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, Malaysia and Mexico.
Some of the world's largest mangroves are the Sunderbans shared by India and Bangladesh. The Sunderbans also are a UNESCO natural heritage site. In South Asia, nearly half of the mangroves are in India.
With the climate restoration window shrinking rapidly due to emissions, governments are racing to find shortcuts for a sustainable future. Will mangroves be that shortcut or the magic wand that countries desperately seek?