Paradise regained?

22 December 2009 | News story

Working with Nature, we can protect ourselves from and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

When we think of the coasts of Indonesia, Thailand or Malaysia, the most common image that comes to mind is that of blue sky, golden beaches and warm, turquoise seas. We rarely realize that the very places that feature in our dream holiday photos are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, exposed to severe storms, flooding, salt-water intrusion and erosion.

Nature can present some devastating dangers and, with the growing impacts of climate change, we are being reminded of it more and more often. But Nature can just as often provide us with effective solutions to help protect us from those threats. Ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs are just one example: they have the power to protect coastal areas and communities from climate change impacts. Mangroves, thanks to the drag forces of their roots and stems, can reduce the energy and size of waves hitting beaches by as much as seven times compared to beaches that lack vegetation.

To capitalize on the enormous potential of nature, Wetlands International, IUCN, WWF and other environmental organizations are implementing the Green Coast Programme, which aims at helping to restore and manage damaged coastal ecosystems in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Malaysia. As well as providing financial and technical support, Green Coast engages people living in those areas in planting coastal vegetation. By doing so, local communities can improve their livelihoods and increase their resilience to climate change impacts.