Mangroves for Resilience

The month of October resembles with the annual welcoming event of autumn season giving a sense of respite to the people having been battered by the scorching heat of hot summer and humid rainy days.

Bhubaneswar, Nov 05 : The month of October resembles with the annual welcoming event of autumn season giving a sense of respite to the people having been battered by the scorching heat of hot summer and humid rainy days.

Unfurling of the autumn season makes the Indians across the length and breadth of the country celebrate the month with the victory of virtues over the evils by observing Dussehra.

However, along the coast line of Bay of Bengal, the natives of Coastal Odisha, gets engrossed in anamnesis with the harrowing memoir of the super cyclone that ravaged the state with heavy strong wind speed of up to 250kmph and high tidal surge of salt water crossing the coast line nearly 30km inward towards the land having more than twenty feet height smashing and bashing everything and destroying eco-system on 29th October 1999.

I have seen many a times, my grandparents becoming stoic and immersed in their melancholic lamentable memories of this particular day, having flash backs with uncontrollable thoughts about past disastrous event that happened on the night of the 29th October and instantaneously washing away many coastal villages, eliminating their existence from the map of the globe and killing more than ten thousand people belonging to Jagatsinghpur district (my home district), the epicentre of the Super Cyclone.

The destruction caused by the category V cyclone in the epicentre was not the only agonizing incident for them, the chaos, destitution and sufferings of the masses was a real mess at that point of time.

Sudden vanishment of a large chunk of coastal population followed by second wave of morbidity and mortality, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), homelessness, loss of livelihoods and so many other losses accumulated to catch hold the memory of grandpa even after so many years. I have witnessed the conversation between my grandparents on the particular day of the year about that bizarre incident which had a strong emotional scar on their mind.

On some recounting of the memory time occasion, grandpa with a mournful voice said to me, “You know, natural disasters are inevitable, but it is the human whose actions are deciding the kind of impact of the disaster on the people especially the resourceless poor people.”

The unfathomable statement of grandpa was inconceivable by me at that point of time due to the underdeveloped cerebral system which is grossly related to age and got transferred into incongruence look in my eyes.

In order to make me understand, elaborating his statement he said, “you know, coast lines are always vulnerable to ferocious cyclonic wind and storm surge for which mother nature has created its own defence mechanism to protect the land area from the brine water ingression by erecting the mangrove forest near the river mouths. But we clear these forests for our own benefits making the whole society vulnerable to the wrath of cyclones.”

Listening to his elaboration, I made a change in my sitting posture to straight and upright position while my eyes got fixed into his eyes that persuade him to speak more.

With a contemplative and reflective look, he further added, “Jagatsinghpur coastal belt used to be guarded by dense green coverage of mangroves. The thick and sturdy mangrove trees are a natural barrier to cyclonic wind while its pneumatophores root system act as impediment to the sea water ingression.

With the presence of green bushy defence mechanism, people of the region had always felt protected from the cyclonic vagaries. They had never seen before the kind of wind speed and sudden flush of sea water ingression engulfing their home and agricultural land as was experienced on 29th October, 1999. It all happened due to the clearing of the forest areas near the coast line providing safe passage for the cyclonic wind to travel through with gallons of sea water intruding into the land area ravaging and washing away people, their homes and valuables.

You see! Nature’s forces are invincible and to be protected from those natural forces you need to take shelter under some form of stubborn and unassailable natural coverage.”

Commemorating this year’s 29th October as 24th year of the incident, grandpa’s pearl of wisdoms is resonating in my mind that the mangroves are the natural defence mechanism against cyclonic storm.

Other than playing the role of a positioned soldier at the border area to protect human society, it contributes in a multiple way in restoration of terrestrial and marine ecosystem that further enhances the wellbeing of the people.

In the event of change in climatic conditions more frequent cyclonic formations are going to happen on the surface of the sea.

This might be the time to build our defence mechanism to withstand the ferocious wind speed and storm surge by focusing on the generation of extended mangroves patches along the coast line and save the humanity from possible losses in future.

This is the most opportune time that we come together and rebuild our coastal ecosystem by promoting and protecting mangroves.

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