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The Tsunami and Coastal Wetlands - Recommendations for Action

Report on Special Session on Tsunami and Coastal Wetlands,
Asian Wetland Symposium 2005
9 February 2005 Bhubaneswar, India

A Special Session on the Tsunami and Coastal Wetlands was organised on 9th February 2005 as part of the Asian Wetland Symposium 2005 (AWS 2005) in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. It was coorganised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India, Ramsar Centre Japan, Chilika Development Authority, Wetlands International, Global Environment Centre and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat. It was chaired by Ms Meena Gupta, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and attended by over 250 experts on wetlands, natural resource management and tsunami issues from many countries in the region as well as international organisations.

Presentations were made by 15 experts on different aspects of impacts and response options. Key findings from the session were as follows:

Impacts of the Tsunami

Major human impacts include massive loss of life, destruction of coastal settlements and infrastructure, loss of fishing boats and facilities, loss and degradation of agricultural lands and forests and salinisation and contamination of water sources.

According to rapid assessments, the main impacts of the tsunami on coastal wetlands varied according to the location and distance from the epicenter or fault line. Impacts include:

  • Loss or degradation of mangroves and seagrass beds
  • Silting and degrading of coral reefs
  • Sedimentation or turbidity of coastal waters leading to algal blooms
  • Major changes in intertidal flats and coastal lagoons

Certain wetland types played a role in reducing the tsunami impact, especially in locations further from the epicenter, including coral reefs and mangroves which broke the impact of the waves and absorbed some of the energy and protected areas further inland. Mangroves also stopped people being washed out to sea and trapped debris, reducing further damage.

The main response to the tsunami by the affected countries in relation to coastal wetlands has been focused initially on rescue and survival of local communities, followed by rapid assessment of impacts which are leading to the development of action plans.

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