Marvellous Mangroves: Myths and Legends is Now Available!
MAP Education Director Martin Keeley’s most recent book is Marvellous Mangroves: Myths and Legends, a compilation of stories from “Mangrove Peoples”—those who live on shorelines where mangroves thrive—from around the world.
Those peoples range from Brazil’s northern states of Parà and Bahia, where the orisha Nanã personifies God as an old lady dressed in purple and white. Other cultures include the Sundarbans people, where Bonobibi is known as the goddess of the tiger as well as the mangrove forests, as well as communities across the Caribbean and West Indies, Australia, China, and Vietnam. With wonderfully evocative illustrations by Daniella Christian, the book is designed both to entertain and enlighten, and includes valuable information for classroom use.
Tiny green sprouts push past the rubble weeks after bulldozers razed a mangrove forest that lined the Mexican coast in Cancun. A recovery was beginning as birds and reptiles slowly repopulated the area, but the fight wasn’t over to save the Tajamar Mangrove from becoming offices buildings, apartments or stores in the resort town.
Hundreds of citizens and activists worked for years to protect the thriving mangrove forest, but in the predawn hours of January 16 2016 developers destroyed about 110 acres for the new development– Malecón Tajamar. Immediately the loss was felt by the community. A federal judge halted construction after developers failed to follow the law that required the relocation of all endangered species. Activists with the Salvemos Manglar Tajamar stand guard, preventing developers from pouring concrete and continuing their work.
“The project is stopped for now and that keeps us tranquil but we are still vigilant,” said Cristina Sardaneta, an activist for the group Salvemos Manglar Tajamar.
In the last couple of decades over 35 percent of mangroves have been lost in Mexico due to logging, coastal development and climate change. “The loss of mangroves is not and should never be trivial,” Greenpeace wrote in a statement after the demolition.
The Mexican National Commission for the Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) estimates mangroves contribute significantly to the fishing industry and offer the coast protection from flooding–the areas that have lost their natural barrier experience more frequent flooding. Mangroves are also crucial for protecting the city from hurricanes, blocking a majority of the heavy winds. They also help cool the city and absorb huge quantities of carbon.
Forty years ago Cancun was a wild jungle filled with exotic fruit trees, shrubs, trees, medicinal plants, orchids and other types of flowers. Today few green spaces exist in the city, the mangrove forest was a popular area for locals to enjoy a ride bike, run or walk with their families.
The development project was stopped once before in November of 2015, after a group of a 113 youth filed a Federal Trial for the Protection of Constitutional Rights in a district court. They group demanded “their right to a healthy environment to be respected, specifically demanding for the cutting and clearing of the mangrove in the development of the project known as Malecón Tajamar to stop,” the group Salvemos Manglar Tajamar wrote in a press release.
In a historic ruling the judge granted a definitive suspension, but the joy was short lived. The youngsters were ordered to reimburse investors and developers 21 million pesos, approximately $1.1 million. This case along with another filed by a group of adults remains in court after groups filed objections to the decisions.
A law passed by the Mexican government in 2007 banned all mangrove destruction, but Malecón Tajamar project lots were sold before the law took hold. However Cristina said Salvemos Manglar Tajamar were able to file complaints and lawsuits after developers failed to relocate animals before construction. “When they devastated the area, crocodiles and other animals were there. So the law says that if you do not comply with even only one of the conditions that permit must be cancelled,” said Cristina. “So authorities can cancel the project, but there is so much money invested and they handled it so poorly that they would need to give back millions of dollars.”
Now that work has halted the next challenge is to ensure construction does not start, giving the area a chance to regrow. Greenpeace condemn the destruction but believes the mangroves and natural habitat could reestablish itself if it’s left untouched and development stops. But mangrove reforestation can take up to 10 years.
A recent gubernatorial election brought a change of power to Quintana Roo, the state that contains the city of Cancun, has activists worried. One commentator noted this doesn’t bode well for the mangroves, because the amount of money put into the election by “interested parties” will require some serious payback.
The movement started as an audio note on the social media platform WhatsApp, the Salvemos Manglar Tajamar message continues to spread, traveling across the globe via Facebook with activists from as far away as Mongolia posting images with signs declaring their support for the movement. No final resolution decision has been decided but the courts and the group continues to speak out on social media trying keep residents engaged.
“We are visiting schools to speak to children about the importance of mangroves and climate change,” said Sardaneta. “We are organizing events every one or two months in Tajamar so that people go and participate with us.”
Concert of Music from the Nueva Canción Tradition of Latin America by Sin Fronteras
MANGROVE ACTION PROJECT & NW HERITAGE RESOURCES
P.O. Box 1854
Port Angeles, WA 98362
PORT ANGELES – March 8, 2016 – Northwest Heritage Resources is pleased to present a concert performance in partnership with the Mangrove Action Project, by the very talented traditional musical group, Sin Fronteras. The concert is scheduled for 7:00pm on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at the Naval Elks Lodge – 3rd Floor Ballroom, 131 E. First St., Port Angeles, WA.
At a time in the Pacific Northwest when there is growing involvement in arts and social justice, there has been renewed interest in the nueva canción (“new song”) movement from Latin America. Seattle area trio Sin Fronteras (“without borders“), are highly skilled performers of this tradition and emigrated to the U.S. from Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. They describe the music as having “vibrant rhythms, soulful melodies, and breathtaking harmonies – songs of life, humanity, and love.” The song lyrics alone are some of the most beautiful poetry in the Spanish language.
The roots of nueva canción are based in the rural folk music of Chile, and spread from there to Argentina, Spain, and other Latin countries. In support of the “common people”, the music made extensive use of traditional musical forms and instruments, such as the quena, zampoña, charango and cajón, and feature the guitar (from Chilean cueca). Sin Fronteras continues this tradition, adding the cuatro, Argentinian bombo (bass drum), and Venezuelan harp.
Suggested donation for the concert is $10 – 15 collected at the door. No advance ticket sales. Part of admission donations will go to support the work of the Mangrove Action Project, to help restore the rapidly disappearing mangroves of Central America. Mangroves are vital for the migratory birds, marine life and local coastal communities. This concert is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, 4Culture, and Northwest Heritage Resources.
The future of the Sundarbans lies in the hands of its youth
The following is an excerpt adapted from an upcoming article in Aramco World Magazine written by friend of MAP Lou Werner.
The great mangrove forest at the head of the Bay of Bengal known as the Sundarbans has one of most complex river systems in the world, a fine mesh net of distributaries seaward to the south and tributaries from the plains and mountains of the north, including the waters of three of Asia’s largest- the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna – as well as some fifty others.
The natural contour of this feeder system is also affected by manmade interventions like large upstream dams, notably the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges in India; artificially dredged connector canals called “cuts”, such as the Halifax Cut between the Nabaganga and Madhumati Rivers in Bangladesh; and many low-lying artificial rice cultivation islands called polders, made by building high, non-floodable embankments.
The distributaries run heavily in the rainy season and slowly in the dry through a web of 450 creeks, branches, and canals. Some of these are filled with sediment so they flow poorly, and others are temporarily dammed by farmers so they periodically dump large amounts of highly saline water into the rivers’ more brackish flow. In unlucky years, cyclones blow in and wreak their own havoc.
An even more insidious threat to the Sundarbans is global sea level rise, and the people who live nearest the forest increasingly see their lands under threat. Those on the Bangladesh side of the border, where the human and non-human ecosystems are most interlocked, amount to some four million people.
One does not need to be an oceanographer or hydrologist to know much about one’s environment. Experts aplenty can be found on the banks of the Passur River, one of the forest’s major distributaries, at the Badamtala Laudop School’s student-led Mangrove Club. Fourteen year old club president Pronoti Mridha has taken a three-day workshop taught jointly by the Khulna NGO CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network) and the US-based NGO Mangrove Action Project, and she has clearly learned a lot.
The annual worship ceremony of Bonbibi, Protectress of the Sundarbans, takes place at forest altars not far from Pronoti’s school. The legend is read before effigies of (from l. to r.) the Devil King disguised as a tiger, the Goddess Bonbibi, the boy honey collector, and the deceitful merchant who offers the boy’s life to the tiger in return for a free hand to exploit the forest. Bonbibi rescues the boy, punishes the merchant, and sends the tiger back into the forest- all in rhymed verse intoned by a priest before the faithful. Photo credits: Nasir Mahmud
For a foreign visitor, she answers correctly a series of rapid-fire questions, “Why might one see a swarm of bees out over the water, far from land? Which birds are resident and which are migratory? Identify the links in the Sundarbans food chain.” Pronoti stops after naming the twenty links that she learned from a classroom exercise, in which twenty students, each representing consecutive prey animals in the food chain, hold a rope at even intervals. If one species disappears, that section of rope falls to the ground, and the entire chain is in danger of extinction. Pronoti ends her examination with a firm answer, “I want to be an entomologist…ants, not bees.”
Pronoti leads a visitor into her club room where thirty school age members are waiting. The questions continue, some with a twist, for those brave enough to step forward. “What is more beautiful, a macharanga or a akash moti?“ (literally, a “colored fish” and a “sky pearl”, both being the names for local insect-eating birds. “What kind of Sundarbans tree is that?” the visitor asks while pointing out the window to a banana plant. One boy corrects his elder and answers confidently, “No sir, bananas do not grow wild in the mangrove forest.”
Pronoti then leads her club members in a dance and song to illustrate what the natural ecosystem means to her parents and neighbors who make their living from its bounty. Rain, flood, forest, fish and fauna are all conjured up through hand gestures and foot stomps. The song ends with a loud round of applause.
The future of the Sundarbans mangrove forest lies in the hands of young people like Pronoti. If she grows up to some job in the worlds of science and policymaking, and if her country listens closely to what it can do to protect its forest and then acts accordingly, then perhaps Bangladesh will survive all the environmental insults that come to it from other parts of the globe.
MAP’s Children’s Mangrove Art Calendar has been one of our favorite programs for 15 years. We were delighted to hear from our friends at APOWA that the calendar contest’s prompt, ‘What do mangroves mean to me and my community’, became the topic of greater conversation earlier this month.
Delegates from the Chinese Mangrove Conservation Network (CMCN) have just returned from a ten-day visit to the Sundarbans hosted by our friends at the Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN).
Mangroves, An Invaluable Ally Against Climate Change
By Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project
Mangrove Scene by Ilayaraja Raja
Mangroves are the rainforests by the sea, found at the boundary where land meets ocean. They serve a wide range of ecological functions, providing economically valuable products and services. Mangroves, once estimated to cover an area of over 36 million hectares, dominated large stretches of tropical coastline. However, due to ongoing development pressures, mangroves are degraded and their area substantially diminished relative to their historic range, less than 15 million ha remain.