No effort in vain!
When bottomless barrels hold more than they let on
Mangroves are a true wonder of nature. They protect coasts and shores, prevent erosion, filter pollutants and maintain water quality. They are also tremendous carbon sinkers. Mangrove forests absorb more than twice as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests. Each year, a mature tree can absorb roughly 21 kilogrammes of CO₂, and for young trees this is considerably less. With a life span of 100 years, one tree could absorb around one tonne of CO₂.
Coastal forests, which are as valuable as they are sensitive, are greatly endangered across the world – and Sri Lanka is no exception. In the Koggala lagoon lake lies the island of Thalathuduwa to the south of the country. In the lagoon – an enormous bird sanctuary – there were once 21 islands. Yet severe shoreline erosion has now reduced the number to nine. Fish stocks, too, have dramatically declined, which also hits the population hard.
The DER Touristik Foundation supports the project partner Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation (WORC) with protecting and preserving these valuable ecosystems – for both the inhabitants and travel guests – by restoring mangrove forests in the Koggala lagoon.
2017 began with the planting of mangrove trees in mud-filled bottomless barrels along the shoreline. Around three years following planting, special roots develop and form a natural shore barrier in front of the lagoon. The root system of a mangrove plant must be protected for at least seven years so that it can survive under severe erosion. After eight years, the barrel is removed and naturally decomposes – the trees now grow freely. A great secondary effect: the layer of mud in and around the barrels also promotes the growth of natural mangroves.
Source: Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation
By planting mangroves, the project not only contributes to nature conservation, but also to the reduction of CO₂ emissions: the project will plant a total of 6,000 trees, which over time will offset 6,000 tonnes of CO₂.
Pupils of five schools in the Koggala Lagoon regularly visit the WORC mangrove project, and are taught background information on newly planted mangrove trees and how to care for them. Adult residents around the lake such as fishers and public sector employees related to the project area are also involved, and educated about the importance of mangroves for their habitat. More modern fishing nets are provided for fishing families.
People around the lagoon predominantly earn their living from fishing and tourism. By promoting eco-tourism through the WORC, new sources of income will be exploited for the region over the long term: the construction of an information centre and the establishment of a mangrove nursery brings visitors closer to the mangrove conservation project.
Tours with tourist boats directly to the mangrove forests are optimised through better equipment and training of guides (e.g., life jackets, life-saving training). Additional sources of income in tourism are created by means of training in the breeding of fish and ornamental flowers, the production of batik clothing as souvenirs as well as the promotion of the cinnamon industry on Ganduwa island.
Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation (WORC)
The non-profit organisation has been focusing on the preservation and restoration of ecosystems in Sri Lanka since 2010. Among other things, it supports the protection and restoration of mangrove forests in Koggala and the protection and restoration of coral reefs in Rumassala at community level. WORC also offers travel experiences in all these areas. All income from eco-tourism is used to finance ongoing protection and restoration work.