Many of the coastal provinces in Thailand have mangrove forests. However, the number of mangroves over the last 30 years or so have decreased greatly. In 1961 there were 909,346 acres of mangrove forests. By 2002 this number had reduced to only 593,052 acres. This is mainly due to urbanization, agriculture and aquaculture. In Samut Prakan, many mangroves were destroyed to make room for shrimp farms, factories and housing estates. A direct consequence of this is land erosion. The worst example of this is Khun Samut Chin community that have had to move their village several kilometres inland. Local government tried to stop this erosion by erecting concrete pillars to act as tide breaks. But, these are not only very costly but have also proven to be destructive to neighbouring stretches of coastline that are not protected. In recent years, different methods have started to be used. These are a combination of bamboo sticks and the planting of mangrove saplings.
The two main locations in Samut Prakan where they have been doing mangrove reforestation is Khun Samut Chin and Bang Pu Seaside Resort. At the weekend, Mr. Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province, together with several hundred students from Chaengronwittaya School, went to Bang Pu Seaside Resort to plant several thousand mangrove saplings and also to release hundreds of crabs into the water. This was done to celebrate the 77th birthday anniversary of H.M. The Queen which is on 12th August 2009. They first met in the auditorium where the Governor oversaw the opening ceremony and also gave a talk to the students. He told them what land erosion would mean to their own future and that it was important for everyone today to start planting mangroves for future generations. He said that if we didn’t take action now then this whole coastline could be underwater within 20 years. The students were then given some background information on mangrove plants from an official from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
The students were told about the different kinds of mangrove plants and also how to plant them so that when the tide rose later in the day the sapling wouldn’t be washed away. During the opening ceremony they were also told about the importance that mangroves play in the ecological system of Thailands coastlines:
* Mangroves provide shoreline protection and sediment accretion. They buffer the shoreline from the destructive impact of storms and waves.
* Mangroves trap and bind sediments, thereby reducing coastal turbidity, and help clean the water.
* Mangroves provide habitat for both marine and terrestrial organisms; homes for both plants and animals.
* Mangroves are nurseries for commercially important fish stocks, replenishing estuarine and coastal fisheries.
Once the instruction was over, Mr. Kwanchai Wongnitikorn led the students down to the mangrove nursery. He first set free numerous crabs into the water and then planted several mangrove saplings into the mud. The students soon followed. They stripped of their shoes and socks and climbed down into the wet mud. As you can see from these pictures, numerous other groups have already planted mangroves over the last few years. Although they are growing well, it does take time for them to reach maturity. Maybe as long as several decades. That is why it is important for everyone to start now before it is too late. I think all of the students had some fun at the weekend but also at the same time felt some satisfaction that they had done a small part in stopping land erosion.
I have posted some more pictures of this event over at the Samut Prakan Forums.