In Malaysia, mangroves are found along coastal areas, river mouths, around islands and areas influenced by tides. They act as a shield, protecting the land from strong waves and winds and control erosion. Besides this, they provide a source of revenue not only to the local communities but also for the country. They also provide great scenery for recreational purpose. By conserving and restoring these wetlands we help to protect the coastlines, protect the unique biodiversity that they support and ensure that the livelihood of the local communities is sustained.
Mangroves trees are salt tolerant. They have adapted to the harsh conditions and the different tide levels. They have special features such as leaves which can remove salt and also a root system that allows the plants to breathe. Their root system also help to trap sediments, pollutants and mud. Mangroves provide a variety of services such as:
- They are suitable nursery grounds for fishes, prawns, crabs and shell fish.
- They provide building material
- Their fruits and leaves have medicinal values and can be used in the preparation of local delicacies
- They provide wood for the charcoal industry
- They are good areas for Ecotourism activities
- They provide a source of livelihood to the local communities
- They provide food and shelter for various birds and animals
- They are also carbon stores.
Unfortunately, many of these areas are being cleared to make way for aquaculture or land reclamation work. The wood is harvested for building material and used as foundation to build houses. Due to the destruction of the mangroves, flooding and erosion occur along the coastal areas. There is also salt water intrusion. Cockles, a type of shellfish, which is commonly used in a local dish (fried kueh tiau) in Malaysia, are difficult to get now because they depend on organic materials from the mangroves for their food and these have been destroyed! Fish catch has also been reduced considerably and this has affected the livelihood of fishermen.
How do we promote conservation of mangroves? We work mostly with the local communities as they rely on the mangroves for their survival. We educate them on conservation and rehabilitation and why they should ensure that these areas are protected. We encourage them to carry out Ecotourism activities which will generate interest in them to conserve such areas. Through eco-tourism, people will learn to appreciate nature more. We also work together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Department in Malaysia to raise awareness and promote conservation and rehabilitation of mangroves. We also promote this to corporate sectors for example, Cargil Malaysia.