Mangroves Just a few weeks back, Amphan wreaked havoc in Bangladesh, West Bengal, and coastal areas of Orissa. Although it caused the loss of property, damage to flora and fauna was reported to be lesser along the Bhitarakanika National Park (BNP) in Orissa. The reason behind this was the protection offered by mangrove plantations in the mentioned national park. These mangrove plantations, also known as coastal woodlands buffered the strength of the winds and resulted in a reduction of the destructive nature of the cyclone. Not only Bhitarakanika National Park, nearby settlements in Kendrapara District was spared destruction as massive as seen in Kolkata or nearer coastal regions of Orissa which were unprotected by any force, too.

How do mangroves provide protection? Mangroves have an intricate root system that holds the soil in coastal regions and protects them from getting washed away by high tides, waves, cyclones, and floods. Even the locals of the nearby regions have realized the immense importance of these tidal forests and have rendered help to the forest department of Orissa in order to preserve these ancient mangrove plantations.

Bikash Ranjan Dash, Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division said, “Because of the thick density of mangrove forest in Bhitarkanika, the flora and fauna of the park were unharmed due to the cyclone” Almost 14 days after the cyclone hit the Eastern coast of India, the forest administration revealed the news of flora and fauna in Bhitarakanika National Park as perfectly safe and sound due to the leafy protective barrier. This is not the first time that the forest provided safety against the wrath of nature. A similar situation was observed in 1999 when a cyclone even more fatal than Amphan had hit Orissa.

The mangrove plantations had protected the land and nearby hamlets then too. A resident of Dangamal village said, “October 29-30, 1999-super cyclone had devastated large areas. However, our village was saved from Nature’s fury as the standing mangroves trees acted as bio- shield. Since then, locals realized that mangrove is the lifeline for people living here. Locals here religiously adhere to the policy of protecting the forest.” He added, “The mangrove forest lessened the wind velocity during Cyclone Amphan that struck Odisha.”

Orissa’s mangrove forest is only second to Sunderbans of West Bengal in area, covering 231 sq. km. The majority of this mangrove forest is in Bhitarakanika National Park in Orissa. Bhitarakanika is not only famous for providing protection but also for housing 11 out of 70 exotic species of mangrove that was on the verge of extinction. Nature has been a boon and curse to humanity in the last few months. Nature will reclaim it’s space if pushed off the edge as it has done in recent times. Hence, harmony with nature should be of utmost importance to humanity.

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