Coastal ‘bio-shield’ to protect against tsunami

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, January 21:

A ‘bio-shield’ formed by planting a vegetation belt along coastlines would protect India against future coastal storms, cyclones and tsunamis, scientists here said. In a report on post-tsunami recommendations, the Indian National Commission on Farmers said local communities could plant salt-tolerant trees like casuarina, salicornia, and atriplex, and intersperse them with hybrid pigeon pea (cajanus cajan) as a pulse crop, according to science portal SciDev. “The bio-shield movement will confer multiple benefits to local communities as well as to the country,” the report said.

According to MS Swaminathan, head of Chennai-based MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, the plantations could play a double role. While absorbing the force of severe storms and tsunamis, the ‘bio-shield’ could act as a ‘carbon sink’ by absorbing emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In addition, mangroves would help fishing communities as fallen leaves release nutrients into the water, aiding many species of fish that live and breed among the above-ground roots that remain submerged in the tide, he said. The ‘bio-shield’ idea is one among several short, medium and long-term measures suggested by the commission to ease the distress of fishing and farming communities after the December 26 tsunamis devastated parts of India’s east coast. Another key recommendation is to help communities build artificial coral reefs, among which fish could shelter and breed.

The commission said the government could promote community involvement in the conservation of mangroves and other coastal wetlands, coral reefs, and marine biodiversity, through active participation in tree planting and community-based management of natural resources. It said that scientists from the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and agricultural universities should survey areas where the soil has become salty after being inundated with seawater. Earlier, a high-level meeting convened by the ministry of environment and forests decided to assess the tsunami damage in two phases.

The first phase, to be completed by March, would comprise a scientific assessment based on satellite imagery, involving scientists from the Space Application Centre, the Institute for Ocean Management, the Zoological Survey of India, and the Botanical Survey of India.

The second phase would identify ecological resources that are important to the livelihoods of coastal communities, to assess the damage done to them and propose remedial measures. The detailed evaluation would lead to an action plan to restore the ecology and geology of the affected land.