Government joins bid to plant mangroves

Focus, Normal

The National, Monday, May 23, 2011

COMPANIES and groups that have been involved in mangrove planting initiatives over the past three years will no longer be acting alone.
They now have the support of the national government through the Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD).
The office is taking the lead to come up with a national mangrove planting strategy, stakeholders at a two-day workshop last week on Motupore Island, Central, heard. 
Coastal community representatives from as far as Manus, Wewak and Madang travelled to Port Moresby to attend the workshop which was organised by the adaptation division of OCCD.
Other participants were from the PNG Forest Authority and PNG Forest Research Institute, NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, the private sector and individual groups. 
More than 20 participants attended the workshop that included OCCD staff.
The workshop was told mangroves planted so far did not grow as successfully as expected.
Mangrove trees were dying because:
*People did not have the right attitude towards looking after the plants;
*Frequent wave action from sea swells killing the plants; and
*Fresh water intrusion and wrong species planted in certain locations.
In Central’s Pari village, , for example, of the 900 trees planted by the Tahira community and WWF last year, only nine trees survived.
Mangrove trees did not survive because they were choked by fishermen dragging their dinghies
out to sea.
In Wom, East Sepik, fresh water from a nearby creek flooded into the mangrove area during heavy rains, killing the mangroves.
Local community leader from Manus Manuai Matawi, of Pere village, said: “My people have had respect for the mangrove environment for generations because we feel connected to them.
“We nurture our mangroves; they play a vital role in the ecosystem and the sea has always provided food,” Matawi said.    
Climate change office director for adaptation Varigini Badira said mangroves offered significant, vital and a unique habitat to fish populations through a complex marine food chain apart from stabilising bottom sediments and protecting shorelines from erosion or wave action. 
“Community-based mangrove planting initiative is one of the two measures that the adaptation division is undertaking to address coastal flooding with the assistance from our development partners, key government agencies, NGOs, private sector and the communities,” he said.
“The other initiative undertaken is the coastal early warning system which involves the Digicel text or SMS alerts to minimise loss of lives and damage to property in future disasters.”
Coastal flooding had been identified as one of the top three priority climate hazards being faced by Papua New Guineans. 
Increases in population, waterfront development, agriculture, boating, recreational and related activities had resulted in significant increases in the types and quantities of pollutants reaching coastal waters.