South Asian Coasts Reeling Under Pressure

News feature published in Ceylon Today broadsheet newspaper, 23 January 2014

South Asia Coastal Management Convention in Pondicherry - L to R Chandra Bhushan, Aurofilio Schiavina, Sunita Narain, Tahir Qureshi, Anil Premaratne

South Asia Coastal Management Convention in Pondicherry – L to R Chandra Bhushan, Aurofilio Schiavina, Sunita Narain, Tahir Qureshi, Anil Premaratne

South Asian Coasts Reeling Under Pressure

By Nalaka Gunawardene in Pondicherry, India

As economic development gathers pace in South Asia, its coastal regions are coming under pressure as never before. More ports, power plants and tourist resorts are jostling with fishermen and farmers.

Balancing livelihoods, economic growth and environmental conservation is the only way to avoid a major resource crisis, acknowledged participants at the South Asia Convention on Coastal Management held in Pondicherry, India, from 19 to 21 January 2014.

Over 70 senior government officials, researchers, civil society activists and journalists from Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka came together for this event, organised by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Pondicherry-based citizen group, PondyCAN.

They reported how a disproportionately high share of South Asia’s industrialisation, urbanisation and tourism development is concentrated along its combined 11,240 km of coastline. In total, coastal areas support livelihoods of some 400 million South Asians through fisheries, tourism and other activities.

In many parts of the region, high population density exists alongside sensitive ecosystems – such as mangroves and coral reefs and river estuaries. This intensifies the challenge of managing coastal resources. Climate change impacts, already felt as extreme weather events, add to these pressures.

Participants discussed strategies for regulating coastal development, protecting coastal habitats and coping with climate change.

They agreed on the urgent need for improving scientific understanding of coastal regions, which begins with clearly defining, demarcating and mapping such areas. Evidence based policy making and effective regulation depend on such a knowledge base, currently lacking or inadequate.

“There is a need to strengthen regulatory systems, build capacity and do more research to better manage coastal challenges in South Asia,” said Sunita Narain, Director General of CSE.

In CSE’s view, she said, the most important intervention is to strengthen existing institutions to get them to deliver with greater transparency and accountability.

She added: “We need to balance conservation with benefits to local communities. We also need partnerships between conservation, development and livelihoods without which coastal resource management is not possible in a region like South Asia”.

Ibrahim Naeem, Director of the SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre, located in the Maldives, explained the value of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) in balancing competing interests.

Only such an approach can reconcile the many pressures faced by South Asia’s maritime countries including poverty, depleting resources, increasing hazards and large scale enterprises seeking quick profits from the coastal resources.

“We need to make sure these plans incorporate climate change to make them more meaningful to countries like ours,” he added.

Large scale infrastructure development projects are adding to other pressures. India – which already has 202 commercial ports and 27 thermal power plants on its coastline – is planning another 76 ports and 59 power plants. Over 70% of Sri Lanka’s tourist hotels are located in the coastal zone, with more coming up. The scramble for the coast is increasing in other countries, too.

Meanwhile, over two thirds of the world’s ship breaking takes place on open beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan with little regard for worker health or environmental pollution. It is a highly hazardous industry with lucrative returns for operators.

Participants agreed on the need for the South Asian countries to share experiences and approaches and to learn from each other.

“It is important for South Asian countries to learn from each other’s successes and failures,” said Dr Anil Premaratne, Director General of Sri Lanka’s Coast Conservation Department.

Premaratne pointed out that laws and regulations are just one strategy for better managing coastal areas. Other strategies include awareness raising and public education, and the involvement of local communities in resource management and benefit sharing.

Participants also stressed the need for placing all scientific information and maps in the public domain. Right now, these are often trapped in state agencies or research institutes, with no easy access to researchers or other citizens.

Probir Banerjee, President PondyCAN, stressed that the “worst affected are the people living at the margins and the objective has to be to enhance livelihoods, and not compromise them.”


Stopping the waves: How can natural barriers like mangroves protect coastal areas?

Cartoon in The Philippine Star, 26 Nov 2013

Cartoon in The Philippine Star, 26 Nov 2013

Arriving in the Philippines just two weeks after the super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) hit the archipelago nation on 8 November 2013, I’ve been following many unfolding debates on disaster recovery and resilience.

The Filipino media have been full of post-disaster stories. Among them, I came across an editorial in the Philippine Star on 26 Nov 2013, titled Stopping the Waves, which touched on the role of protecting natural barriers that can guard coastal areas from storm surges.

A key excerpt: “Nothing can stop a storm surge, but there are ways of minimizing the impact of powerful waves. Levees have been built in some countries, although the ones in New Orleans were breached by the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina. Another option is to develop mangrove forests, which can also function as bird sanctuaries and breeding grounds for marine life.”

It added: “Yolanda has revived the debate over the proposed destruction of the coastal lagoon to make way for commercial development. That mangrove forest must be protected and expanded rather than destroyed, and more mangrove areas must be propagated throughout the archipelago. You can’t roll back deadly waves, but their punch can be blunted. Natural barriers should help do the job.”

This is just what TVE Asia Pacific’s regional TV series The Greenbelt Reports highlighted. Filmed at 12 locations in four Asian countries (India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand) which were hardest hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, the series showcased Nature’s protection against disasters and climate change.

It covered three coastal ecosystems or ‘greenbelts’ — coral reefs, mangroves and sand reefs. Reporters and producers from TVE Asia Pacific journalistically investigated the state of greenbelts in South Asia and Southeast Asia by talking to researchers, activists and government officials. They also looked at efforts to balance conservation needs with socio-economic needs of coastal communities.

Here’s the overview documentary (additionally, there were 12 stand-alone short videos as well):

The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 1 of 3

The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 2 of 3

The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 3 of 3

Watch the entire TV series online for free at:

Nature, Inc. TV series: Exploring the planet’s largest ‘enterprise’!

Nature is priceless -- or is i? The answer might save us all!
Nature is priceless — or is it?

If we put a cash price on the economic services that, say, watersheds or insects or coastal mangroves provide, would we value Nature more? Would we be prepared to change our ways of measuring wealth and economic growth? And if we did, would that slow down the extinctions and collapse of ecosystems?

These are some of the issues that are explored in Nature, Inc., a path-breaking TV documentary series that puts a price-tag on environmental services such as forests, wildlife and coral reefs.

First broadcast in 2008 and 2009 on BBC World News, Nature Inc. broke new ground for environmental programming by seeking out a new breed of investor – those who believe they can make money out of saving the planet.

Watch Nature, Inc. series trailer:

Nature Inc. offers new insights into valuing the benefits of natural systems and biodiversity. It takes its lead from economists who have worked out that ecosystem services are worth more than the total of all the world’s national economies.

The first and second series are now available from TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP). Each series comprises six half-hour episodes, compacting stories filmed in different parts of the world. Broadcast, civil society and educational users across the Asia Pacific may order copies at the cost of duplication and dispatch, and without having to pay a license fee.

The series was produced by One Planet Pictures of the UK, in association with of Switzerland.

“There is new green thinking out there and some of it is grappling with pricing renewable assets. As such we felt it was a legitimate new area to take as an organising theme for the new series,” says Robert Lamb, series producer of Nature, Inc. “Perhaps the global recession has made viewers more aware of the ‘eco’ in economics”.

Robert Lamb

The series is based on new research and analysis being done on the subject. Among these new studies is the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

But adding a price tag to Nature is not something that pleases all scientists or activists. Robert says the producers received “an overwhelmingly positive reaction” to the first series, but there was also a small minority who wrote in to say they hated the premise of the whole series.

He adds: “That’s good, we want to foster discussion in Nature Inc. which is why we are encouraging viewers to contribute ideas for the next series.”

Read Robert Lamb’s reflections on the Making of Nature, Inc. TV series

Here’s a sample episode from the series, titled Coral Cashpoint. In this, Nature Inc investigates a claim that our coral reefs are worth $30 billion a year. In this fourth episode, we go diving on the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives and to the bottom of the North Sea to find out how coral reefs supply 500 million of us with food and work. But we are destroying the reefs so quickly, they could vanish entirely in less than a hundred years.

Nature, Inc: Coral Cashpoint – Part 1 of 2

Nature, Inc: Coral Cashpoint – Part 2 of 2

Green activism at crossroads in Sri Lanka? Assessing Piyal Parakrama’s role in conservation movement

Price of Development, as seen by Cartoonist W R Wijesoma, 1993

Environmental activist and communicator Piyal Parakrama’s sudden death last week, of a heart attack, jolted Sri Lanka’s closely-knit green community. The activist community may bicker and argue endlessly among themselves, but there is also strong kinship among its cacophonous members. Many of them are still trying to come to terms with the loss.

As indeed am I – even if I’m not quite a certified member of the activist community, I consider myself a fellow traveler. I turn to words – either reflective prose or verse – when I want to make sense of something, and over the last weekend I wrote a new essay. It runs into 1,800 words and, as with all my tributes to public figures, this one is also social commentary laced in anecdotal reminiscence. It expands on initial thoughts that first appeared on this blog .

The full essay has just been published by Groundviews, and is titled: Death of a Green Activist: Tribute to Piyal Parakrama (1960 – 2010).

Here’s an excerpt where I talk about challenges faced by Sri Lanka’s environmental activists:

Piyal Parakrama on Sri Lanka 2048 TV show

During the past three decades, Piyal and fellow activists have taken up the formidable challenges of conserving Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, long under multiple pressures such as growing human numbers, rising human aspirations, and gaps in law enforcement. Adding to the sense of urgency was the 1999 designation of Sri Lanka as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, where high levels of endemic species (found nowhere else in the wild) were threatened with extinction. Public and media attention is disproportionately focused on a few charismatic mega-fauna like elephants and leopards; in reality, dozens of other animal and plant species are being edged out.

In search of viable solutions for entrenched conservation problems, Piyal collaborated with scientists, educators, journalists and grassroots activists. Some industrialists and investors hated his guts, but he was much sought after by schools, universities and community groups across the country. Concerned researchers and government officials sometimes gave him sensitive information which he could make public in ways they couldn’t.

Some eco-protests grew into sustained campaigns. Among them were the call to save the Buona-Vista reef at Rumassala and struggles against large scale sugarcane plantations in Bibile. A current campaign focuses on the Iran-funded Uma Oya multipurpose project, which involves damming a river for irrigation and power generation purposes.

While environmentalists ultimately haven’t block development projects, their agitations helped increase environmental and public health safeguards. Occasionally, projects were moved to less damaging locations – as happened in mid 2008, when Sri Lanka’s second international airport was moved away from Weerawila, next to the Bundala National Park.

The hard truth, however, is that our green activists have lost more struggles than they have won since the economy was liberalized in 1977. They have not been able to stand up to the all-powerful executive presidency, ruling the country since 1978 — most of that time under Emergency regulations. In that period, we have had ‘green’ and ‘blue’ parties in office, sometimes in coalitions with the ‘reds’. But their environmental record is, at best, patchy. In many cases, local or foreign investors — acting with the backing of local politicians and officials — have bulldozed their way on promises of more jobs and incomes. Environmentalists have sometimes been maligned as anti-development or anti-people. In contemporary Sri Lanka, that’s just one step away from being labeled anti-national or anti-government.

At the end of the essay, I try to sum up the multiple challenges faced by ALL activists in Sri Lanka today:

“Activism is not an easy path anywhere, anytime, and especially so in modern day Sri Lanka. All activists – whether working on democracy, governance, social justice or environment – are struggling to reorient themselves in the post-conflict, middle-income country they suddenly find themselves in. Their old rhetoric and strategies no longer seem to motivate the people or influence either the polity or policy. Many of them haven’t yet crossed the Other Digital Divide, and risk being left behind by the march of technology.”

I had earlier touched on these concerns in a January 2009 blog post titled Vigil for Lasantha: Challenges of keeping the flame alive. If I was harsh in that commentary, I have tried to be more considerate in the latest essay.

After all, I want our activists to be effective and successful as society’s conscience. My suggested author intro for this latest essay, somehow now included in the published version, read: “Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene dreams of becoming an activist one day, but for now, he remains a ‘critical cheer-leader’ of those who are more courageous.”

Read the full essay on Groundviews: Death of a Green Activist: Tribute to Piyal Parakrama (1960 – 2010).

Is this how it all ends? Green activism - a cynical view by Wijesoma

Wanted, urgent: Next-Gen Jacque Cousteaus to be our tour guides to Planet Ocean!

Tony Fontes

As my Australian diver friend Valerie used to say, the trouble with many of us land-lubbers is that we have ‘no idea what’s going on in the sea that covers three quarters of our planet’.

Yet what we do – and don’t do – affects the fate of the sea and all its creatures and systems. That’s a big problem.

Take, for example, roral reefs. Among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on our planet, they are sometimes called rainforests of the sea. And these rich and colourful habitats are now under siege from multiple pressures, ranging from indiscriminate fishing and tourism practices to global warming.

Yet, the coral reefs haven’t attracted the same kind of public concern and outcry as has the destruction of tropical rainforests. How come?

Is this a case of out of sight and out of mind for a majority of the world’s land-lubbers? This is what I asked Australian diver Tony Fontes, who has been a diver and dive instructor for 30 years, much of it at the largest reef of all – the Great Barrier Reef off the north-eastern coast of Australia.

“It sure is – and ideally, everyone should become a diver, so we can all see and feel the wonders of the reef,” he replied.

He added: “At a minimum, we have to do lots of awareness raising. This is why we need to bring back Jacques-Yves Cousteau!”

Tony was engaging journalists at the 7th Greenaccord International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, held in Viterbo, Italy, from 25 – 29 November 2009.

This year’s theme is ‘Climate is changing: stories, facts and people’, and Tony was one of 10 Climate Witnesses who travelled to the central Italian city from far corners of the world to share their stories of ground level changes induced by climate change. Climate Witness is a global programme by WWF International to enable grassroots people to share their story of how climate change affects their lives and what they are doing to maintain a clean and healthy environment. All Climate Witness stories have been authenticated by independent scientists.

Great Barrier Reef: A planetary treasure under siege

Tony lives and works in Airlie Beach (Whitsundays) in Queensland, Australia. It’s a small seaside community right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of his time is spent underwater on training dives – he has clocked over 10,000 hours of professional diving. He generally dives many of the same sites over and over again.

This long and deep immersion in the marine realm gives him uncommon insights into the state of the reef – and it’s not a healthy or pretty picture.

He says: “Through personal observations as well as those by other divers, I have noted changes to the (marine) environment hat are most likely climate induced.”

Increase in coral bleaching is the most noticeable change. From a rare occurrence in the 1980s, it went on to become a regular summer event by the mid 1990s. The past decade has witnessed the largest coral bleaching events on record. And unlike in the past, these have led to large scale coral death and decay.

“Many popular dive sites have lost their lustre due to coral bleaching,” he says, pointing out that the reefs need up to 10 years to fully recover.

He adds: “However, with more bleaching events occurring every year, I wonder if the reefs will ever recover. Without the postcard reef scenes, many visitors are disappointed in their reef experience and are not likely to return.”

It’s not just warmer seas that affects the Great Barrier Reef. Occasional outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, marine pests who eat up the healthy reef, add pressure on the reef. In recent years, scientists have identified another threat – sediments, fertilisers and pesticides from agricultural run-off. This was investigated in Sally Ingleton’s 2003 film, Muddy Waters: Life and Death on the Great Barrier Reef.

Listening to Tony reminded me of Muddy Waters, which journeys to the sugarcane plantations of northern Queensland and into an underwater world to find out what’s killing the reef and what can be done to save it. I was on the international jury of Japan Wildlife Film Festival 2003 when we voted it for the Best Environment and Conservation Award.

“It’s hard to get farmers to change their ways,” says Tony, who works with three local initiatives aimed at reef conservation and related educational outreach. This includes Project AWARE, a non-profit environmental organisation that encourages divers to take action and protect the environment.

The clown fish who moved the world

Global warming now threatens to nullify all these efforts. “If the coral reefs of the world are to survive, we cannot afford the predicted 2 – 3 degree increase in ocean temperature. But we also need to…reduce all impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. This would include improving the water quality of the reef.”

Tony comes across as a man of few, carefully chosen words. His answers are brief and precise. But his passion for the reef and the ocean is clearly evident.

He had a simple, emphatic message to the world’s leaders and activists meeting soon in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Summit: “How are we going to explain to our children and their children that we lost the Great Barrier Reef?”

Perhaps we need not only the next generation of Jacques Cousteaus, but also every kind of communicator who can take the marine conservation messages through factual and entertainment media formats. It’s encouraging to note that Finding Nemo, the 2003 Disney-Pixar animation movie set in the Great Barrier Reef, is the highest selling DVD of all time – more than 40 million copies, and counting.

WWF Australia backgrounder on the Great Barrier Reef

Reporting disasters: How to keep a cool head when all hell breaks loose

WCSJ London

News by definition looks for the exception. What goes right, and according to plan, is hardly news. Deviations, aberrations and accidents hit the news.

It’s the same with disasters. Reducing a hazard or averting a disaster does not make the news; when that hazard turns into a disaster, that typically tops the news. Yet, as we discussed during a session at the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists held in London from June 30 – July 2, 2009, both aspects are important — and both present many challenges to journalists and the media.

The session, titled Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka, saw three science journalists share their own experiences and insights in covering two major disasters in Asia. Richard Stone (Asia News Editor, Science) and Hujun Li (senior science writer with Caijing magazine, China) both spoke about covering the Sichuan earthquake that occurred on 12 May 2008. I spoke on my experiences in covering the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004. The session was chaired by the veteran (and affable) British journalist Tim Radford, who has been The Guardian‘s arts editor, literary editor and science editor.

Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka: L to R: Hujun Li, Nalaka Gunawardene and Richard Stone

Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka: L to R: Hujun Li, Nalaka Gunawardene and Richard Stone

I recalled the post-tsunami media coverage in two phases — breaking news phase (first 7 – 10 days) and the aftermath, which lasted for months. When the news broke on a lazy Sunday morning, ‘Tsunami’ was a completely alien term for most media professionals in Sri Lanka. In newspaper offices, as well as radio and TV studios, journalists suddenly had to explain to their audiences what had happened, where and how. This required journalists to quickly educate themselves, and track down geologists and oceanographers to obtain expert interpretation of the unfolding events. We than had to distill it in non-technical terms for our audiences.

My involvement in this phase was as a regular ‘TV pundit’ and commentator on live TV broadcasts of MTV Channels, Sri Lanka’s largest and most popular broadcast network. Night after night on live TV, we talked about the basics of tsunami and earthquakes, and summed up the latest information on what had taken place. We also acknowledged the limits of science -– for example, despite advances in science and technology, there still was no way of predicting earthquakes in advance.

One question we simply couldn’t answer was frequently raised by thousands of people who lost their loved ones or homes: why did it happen now, here — and to us? Was it an act of God? Was it mass scale karma? As science journalists, we didn’t want to get into these debates — we had to be sensitive when public emotions were running high.

There were enough topics during the breaking news phase that had a scientific angle. Clinically cold as it sounded, the mass deaths required the safe, proper and fast burial of bodies with identities established. The survivors had to be provided shelter, food, safe drinking water and counselling. And when rumours were spreading on the possibility of further tsunamis, both officials and public needed credible information from trusted, competent sources.

Tsunami waves lashing Kalutara beach on western Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004: satellite image courtesy DigitalGlobe Quickbird satellite,

Tsunami waves lashing Kalutara beach on western Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004: satellite image courtesy DigitalGlobe Quickbird satellite,

After the breaking news phase passed, we had more time to pursue specific stories and angles related to the tsunami. As an environmentally sensitive journalist, I was naturally interested in how the killer waves had impacted coastal ecosystems. Then I heard some interesting news reports – on how some elements of Nature had buffered certain locations from Nature’s own fury.

Within days, such news emerged from almost all Tsunami-affected countries. They talked about how coral reefs, mangroves and sand dunes had helped protect some communities or resorts by acting as ‘natural barriers’ against the Tsunami waves. These had not only saved many lives but, in some cases, also reduced property damage. Scientists already knew about this phenomenon, called the ‘greenbelt effect’. Mangroves, coral reefs and sand dunes may not fully block out tsunamis or cyclones, but they can often reduce their impact.

Researching this led to the production of TVE Asia Pacific‘s regional TV series called The Greenbelt Reports, which was filmed at a dozen tsunami impacted locations in South and Southeast Asia. By the time we released the series in December 2006, sufficient time had passed for the affected countries to derive environmental lessons of the tsunami.

The other big story I closely followed was on early warnings for rapid on-set disasters like tsunamis. Some believed that the tsunami caught Indian Ocean rim countries entirely by surprise, but that wasn’t quite true. While the countries of South and Southeast Asia were largely unprepared to act on the tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii, who had detected the extraordinary seismic activity, did issued a tsunami warning one hour after the undersea quake off western Sumatra. This was received at Sri Lanka’s government-run seismological centre in good time, but went unheeded: no one reacted with the swiftness such information warranted. Had a local warning been issued, timely coastal evacuation could have saved thousands.

Views from Ground Zero of several disasters...

Views from Ground Zero of several disasters...

Part of my sustained coverage focused on logistical, technological and socio-cultural challenges in delivering timely, credible and effective early warnings to communities at risk. I did this by writing opinion essays on SciDev.Net and elsewhere, partnering in the HazInfo action research project in Sri Lanka, and leading the Communicating Disasters Asian regional project. A lasting outcome is the multi-author book on Communicating Disasters that I co-edited in December 2007.

All this shows the many and varied science or development stories that journalists can find in the aftermath of disasters. Some of these are obvious and widely covered. Others need to be unearthed and researched involving months of hard work and considerable resources. Revisiting the scenes of disasters, and talking to the affected people weeks or months after the event, often brings up new dimensions and insights.

My own advice to science journalists was that they should leave the strictly political stories to general news reporters, and instead concentrate on the more technical or less self-evident facets in a disaster. During discussion, senior journalist Daniel Nelson suggested that all disaster stories are inherently political as they deal with social disparities and inequalities. I fully agreed that a strict separation of such social issues and science stories wasn’t possible or desirable. However, science journalists are well equipped to sniff out stories that aren’t obviously covered by all members of the media pack that descends on Ground Zero. Someone needs to go beyond body counts and aid appeals to ask the hard questions.

As Hujun Li said recalling the post-Sichuan quake experience, “Politics and science are like twins – we can’t separate the two. What we as science journalists can do is to gather scientific evidence and opinion before we critique official policies or practices.”

Another question we were asked was how journalists can deal with emotions when they are surrounded by so much death and destruction in disaster scenes. Reference was made to trauma that some reporters experience in such situations.

I said: “We are human beings first and journalists next, so it’s entirely normal for us to be affected by what is happening all around us. On more than one occasion in the days following the tsunami, I spoke on live television with a lump in my throat; I know of presenters who broke down on the air when emotions overwhelmed them.”

SciDev.Net blog post: Finding the science in the midst of disaster

And now...the sequels

And now...the sequels

Summing up, Tim Radford emphasized the need for the media to take more interest in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), which basically means preventing disasters or minimising the effects of disasters.

“DRR is perhaps less ‘sexy’ for the media, as it involves lots of policies and practices sustained over time,” he said. “But the potential to do public good through these interventions is enormous.”

As Tim reminded us, disasters already exact a terrible and enduring toll on the poorest countries. This is set to get worse as human numbers increase and climate change causes extreme weather and creates other adverse impacts. Living with climate change would require sustained investments in DRR at every level.

Read Tim Radford on how disasters hit the poor the hardest (The Guardian, 22 May 2009).

The stories are out there to be captured, analysed and communicated. In the coming years, the best stories may well turn out to be on disasters averted or minimised

Grow, grow, grow your reef…

Coral reefs are sometimes called the rainforests of the sea. They are biologically rich and diverse.

But all over the tropical seas, coral reefs are under many pressures – from bad fishing practices to naturally occurring phenomena like the El Nino. Reefs are being damaged and destroyed faster than their natural recovery rate.

Unless a helping hand can be given, many coral reefs would soon be lost forever.

Giving Nature a helping hand is just what a Sri Lankan group of divers have been doing at the Rumassala coral reef on the island’s south coast.

coral-bleaching-a-major-concern.jpg generic6.jpg

TVE Asia Pacific’s international TV series, The Greenbelt Reports, has featured this effort in one episode. Watch it on TVEAP channel on YouTube

Read the story on TVEAP website: Regeneration – a new chance for coral reefs?

Photos courtesy TVE Asia Pacific, from The Greenbelt Reports TV series