With mangroves in the Sunderbans having acted as a natural buffer against cyclone Aila, residents of three villages in the region have decided to plant them in 75 hectares on their own.

The villagers of Sonagaon, Mathurakhand and Amlamethi have understood that the only way to save their homes was to save mangroves in the Sunderbans and so they have begun planting mangroves without any financial support from the government from last Sunday, NGO Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society which is helping them with the project said.

“Aila had proved that we cannot bargain with the mangroves of Sunderbans. The cyclone could not destroy the riversides where there were mangroves, whereas the embankments without mangroves had been washed away,” project coordinator of the NGO Ajanta Dey said.

According to official data, Aila had damaged 400 km of the 3,700 km embankments in the region. However, Ms. Dey claimed that the actual figure is 800 km.

Mangroves protect vulnerable embankments from tidal surges and act as a bio-shield against storms, cyclones and soil erosion, she said.

Ms. Dey said last year the NGO had planted mangroves in around 150 hectares of land with community participation in five villages of Sonagaon, Dulki, Mathurakhand and Amlamethi in the Sunderban Tiger Reserve and Tridibnagar under Sunderban Biosphere Reserve.

Around 60 per cent of the plantation withstood the fury of Aila, she claimed.

Every year mangroves are being destroyed during prawn seed collection by villagers or eaten up by their domestic animals, she said.