Odisha’s government recently proposed planting mangrove and casuarina trees along its coast in order to create natural barriers against cyclonic storms. The initiative is inspired by the extraordinary protection provided by the state’s mangroves during major cyclonic events.
- The state has a roughly 480-kilometer-long coastline. Along the coast, mangrove forests will be planted as part of Phase II of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP).
- Odisha currently has mangrove forests covering 220 square kilometres. The majority of it is found in and around Kendrapara’s Bhitarkanika National Park.
- To mitigate the impact of cyclones, 3,500 hectares for coastal shelter belt planting and 400 hectares for mangrove forest planting have been identified. Bio-shields have been identified in these areas.
- Mangrove plantations are planned for coastal areas that are vulnerable to tidal wave ingress, while casuarina and cashew plantations are planned for coastal shelter belts with sand dunes.
- A nursery would be established for the purpose of raising mangrove saplings.
Natural Disasters and Odisha
- Odisha has historically been vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones, hailstorms, floods, and drought due to its unique geo-climatic conditions.
- Since 1999, when a super cyclone battered Odisha’s coast, six major cyclones have made landfall in the State, and mangrove forests have acted as an effective bio-shield against strong winds in all of these events, with cyclones having a negligible impact on mangrove-forested regions.
- During the recent cyclone Yaas, 150 villages in the Bhadrak and Balasore districts were inundated, but the Kendrapara district, which is surrounded by mangrove forest, escaped relatively unscathed. The Bhitarkanika National Park, located in the Kendrapada district and one of India’s finest biodiversity hotspots, was largely unaffected by the storm surge’s strong winds.
- Mangrove forests cover less than 0.5 percent of the world’s coastlines but are estimated to capture 10-15% of coastal carbon.
- Apart from protecting the hinterland from cyclones and seawater infiltration during tidal surges, mangroves also help to stabilise the coastal land mass against sea erosion. Mangrove roots can absorb some of the energy from a storm surge, thereby protecting coastal communities from cyclone damage.