Aimed at restoring the degraded mangrove ecosystem in the Western Indian Ocean region, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has come up with a new set of guidelines to address past mangrove restoration failures.
Though mangrove restoration initiatives have been increasingly proposed in many countries, the UNEP noted that several countries had reported more failures of mangrove restoration projects than success. “This has been attributed to poor understanding of the local ecosystem requirements and misapplication of the principles of ecological mangrove Restoration,” the UNEP said.
FIRST FOR THE REGION
The Guidelines on Mangrove Ecosystem Restoration for the Western Indian Ocean region is considered first for the region. It mainly targets communities, national agencies, civil society and practitioners involved in mangrove conservation activities. The guidelines has been prepared by utilising the experiences in mangrove restoration projects from Kenya, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius. The Guidelines analyzes challenges facing community-based mangrove restoration projects; and provide possible solutions to the identified problems.
Noting that the new guidelines are a worth to address past mangrove restoration failures, UNEP Nairobi Convention Project Manager, who was involved in drafting the guideline, said “of critical importance is that they provide a step-by-step guide on how to build successful restoration projects which avoid several of the pitfalls that we have kept witnessing.”
Chief Scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and lead author of the guidelines James Kairo said that mangroves were essential life support system for coastal communities in the Western Indian Ocean region.“If degradation continues, communities will be without resources for shelter or fuel, food, or a means to make a living,” Kairo said.
Mangroves are among the most powerful nature based solutions to climate change. But the world has now lost over 67 per cent of it and an additional one percent is lost each year. This increases the risk of restoring the mangroves. The estimates show that about 39 per cent of more people would be flooded annually. The damage due to flood would increase by more than 16 percent.
RESTORATION AND CHALLENGES
The UNEP said that several ongoing mangrove restoration activities were being done in region, involving different stakeholders, including local communities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sectors, and funding agencies. However, these initiatives are faced with a number of operational challenges that have led to multiple failures. The Guidelines comprehensively analyze prevailing circumstances, sharing local lessons for best institutional arrangements and stakeholders’ engagement mechanisms that enable efficient implementation of restoration projects, the UNEP said.
It said that the interaction between local communities and mangroves was often not well appreciated when formulating mangrove restoration projects. It said that over exploitation of mangrove resources and conversion of the area into other land uses are socio-ecologically complex issues. The guideline also addressed multiple dimensions of mangrove restoration and management.
The UNEP also pointed out that many of the restoration initiatives in the region were small scale, which mainly involved local communities and only a few mangrove tree species. The UN agency said that implementation of restoration projects at larger scale involved more species. It also needed adaptive approaches to be effective. “Adaptive pathways include the use of multiple scenarios of future socio-economic and physical changes (e.g. population growth, climate change, or land-use),” the UNEP said.