Mangroves would have protected villagers in Myanmar

Tens of thousands of people died in the Cyclone Nargis disaster, the Independent on Sunday reported, because vital mangrove forests had been cut down, destroying the land's protection against the sea.

Far more people were killed by the 3.5-metre wave that came ashore during the violent storm than by its 193 kilometres-per-hour winds,
reports said. "It swept away and inundated half the houses in low-lying villages," minister for relief and resettlement in Myanmar (Burma), Maung Maung Swe, was reported as saying. "They did not have anywhere to flee."

The wave could only be so devastating because the thick mangrove forests had been almost entirely destroyed, the Independent said.
Intact, they would have absorbed much of the power of the sea.

Eighty-three per cent of the mangroves of the Irrawaddy delta, the area worst hit by the cyclone, have been cleared since 1924, first to
grow rice, and more recently for fuel.

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