Livelihoods of 450m coastal South Asians under threat | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 10, 2011

Decaying Marine Habitat

Livelihoods of 450m coastal South Asians under threat

Experts tell Cox's Bazar workshop

Livelihoods and food security of around 450 million South Asians residing in coastal areas are under threat due to habitat degradation and over fishing in the Bay of Bengal.
Rapid population growth and continuous reduction of marine and coastal resources has led to uncertainty over whether the coastal ecosystem will be able to support livelihoods of the region's population in the near future.
The observations came at a two-daylong international workshop on coastal management at a hotel in Cox's Bazar on December 5 and 6.
The workshop was organised by the Bangladesh chapter of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) project, a platform of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Food and Agriculture Organization supported the initiative. Some 60 national level experts from the eight countries attended the workshop.
Expansion of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and enhancing regional collaboration is a must to cope with the upcoming crisis and protect the population residing in the 6.2 million square kilometres of coastline, they viewed.
ICM refers to the system where a combination of the government, fishing communities, non-government organisations and knowledge on science and management comes together to protect and develop the coastal ecosystem and resources.
Different man-made hazards like industrial sewage, establishment of ports and harbours and absence of eco-friendly tourism are mainly causing destruction of the coastal eco-system.
Moreover, Bangladesh's ship building industry is adding to the negative effects, they said.
“The coastal eco-system is definitely affected by the shipbuilding industry. But on how much of the impact reaches the Bay of Bengal is debatable,” said Dr Rudolf Hermes, chief technical adviser of the BOBLME project.
Emphasising the importance of ICM, an ecology expert from India, Probir Banerjee, said around 65 percent of the global GDP comes from coastal areas and 30 percent of the world population lives along the coast.
“Neglecting the coast will adversely affect the world's economy and livelihoods,” he said.
Talking to The Daily Star, Sri Lankan coastal ecology specialist Dr Jayampathy Samarakoon said continuous sedimentation is destroying this region's costal ecosystem.
“Although sedimentation is good for agriculture in floodplain deltas like Bangladesh, it is harmful for rocky islands like Sri Lanka,” he said.
The recommendations from the experts include capacity building of small-scale fishing communities, initiating multi-sectoral and coordinated approaches to develop ecosystem and livelihoods and conservation of endangered species like marine turtles.
They also suggested developing mechanisms to address trans-boundary problems like disease transmission through migratory wildlife and creating mass awareness.
Programme coordinator of IUCN Bangladesh office Dr Istiak Sobahan, Department of Marine Park of Malaysia State Director Nizam B Ismail and Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture of Maldives Senior Research Officer Khadheeja Ali attended the workshop.

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