A call to preserve mangroves: Leveraging technology for sustainable conservation


AMIDST persistent floods and an ongoing climate crisis, one undeniable reality emerges: the fate of mangrove trees extends beyond environmental concerns; it represents a collective responsibility and a crucial lifeline for humanity. Take, for example, the recurring challenges posed by floods.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, in 2022, floods resulted in significant losses, amounting to a staggering 622.4 million ringgit. Notably, all 14 states in Malaysia faced flood-related issues in 2022, marking an increase from the 12 states affected the previous year.

Consider this: half of the world's mangroves are already gone, and 35% have been lost since the mid-1980s. Mangroves, which store four times more carbon than rainforests, play a pivotal role in the ecosystem.

It's vital to grasp the urgency of preserving mangroves. We need to understand why it's crucial to bridge the gap between business, governance, and nature itself, working towards a future where mangroves thrive.

Tech: Empowering Sustainable Conservation

While monetary contributions to sustainability programmes are a positive start, the true impact is paramount. Collaboration between the private sector, government, and society is essential for bold climate solutions. In recent years, global tech majors have partnered with local communities and regional NGOs in Malaysia, leveraging technology to enhance the management of new mangrove sapling growth.

Ericsson’s Connected Mangroves project in Selangor, Malaysia, employs a data-driven approach using cloud, machine-to-machine, and mobile broadband technologies. For example, by equipping mangrove saplings with sensors, the project monitors real-time data on soil and weather conditions, fires, water levels, and potential intrusions.

This information is sent to a cloud system, providing users, including farmers, NGOs, analysts, and authorities, with insights into sapling status. The initiative showcases how ICT and mobility can collaboratively contribute to the restoration of mangrove plantations, aiding in carbon absorption and enhancing resilience against natural disasters like flooding.

Since 1999, Tokio Marine, formerly "Tokio Marine & Nichido," has been offering Mangrove-based Solutions as insurance for the future of the Earth.

Their commitment is evident in their adherence to the Mangrove Planting 100-Year Declaration. In collaboration, the Malaysia-based non-profit environmental organisation EcoKnights and Tokio Marine Life Malaysia are working together to protect mangroves for the long haul.

Their effort goes beyond the initial planting phase, focusing on ensuring the long-term survival of these crucial ecosystems. Recently, Tokio Marine Life Malaysia was recognized at the BMI Sustainable Brand Awards 2023 for their commitment to this cause, quietly making a difference in environmental preservation.

To achieve this, a rigorous six-month mangrove monitoring programme was established. It involves precise data collection and recording, streamlined with advanced technologies like GPS systems, QR codes, and tagging for increased accuracy and efficiency. These innovations enable precise carbon offset calculations, aligning with our sustainable and ecologically sensitive future.

Technology integration in conservation is a significant step toward long-term sustainability. Tagging, QR codes, and GPS systems offer real-time insights into mangrove seedling growth and ecosystem conditions.

Beyond monitoring, these innovations provide invaluable data for calculating the carbon offset from mangrove conservation efforts, enhancing accountability, transparency, and our understanding of environmental benefits.

The Guardians: Mangroves

While the government’s flood management efforts have been commendable, there is a need to embrace nature’s resilience to combat this crisis - the mangroves.

These salt-tolerant ecosystems, characterised by a unique community of trees and shrubs, hold the key to flood mitigation in coastal regions. Their intricate root systems not only stabilise the coastline but also act as sponges, soaking up excess water and reducing the impact of storm surges and serve as a first line of defence against flooding and erosion.

The science is compelling. Studies have shown that mangroves can reduce wave height by up to 66% and protect against coastal erosion. In areas where mangroves have been preserved, the damage caused by floods and storms has been significantly reduced.

Mangroves are vital for the ecosystem. In Peninsular Malaysia alone, these mangroves contribute a substantial 650 million ringgit annually to the national economy.

The Root Cause

Over the past decade, there has been a notable increase in floods. The reasons behind the surge are multifaceted. Rapid urbanisation accelerates runoff, development encroaches on floodplains and drainage, drainage systems and local fixes fall short.

Narrow bridges get clogged, land clearing leads to silted waterways, heavy rains worsen matters, tidal backwater creeps in, and rivers struggle to cope. These challenges fuel the urban flood crisis, emphasising the need for a comprehensive strategy for resilience.

Conservation and Restoration: A Necessity

As Malaysia grapples with its recurring flood crisis, leveraging technology for mangrove preservation is crucial. Collaboration among government bodies, local communities, conservation groups, and tech-savvy corporations is vital, making the preservation and restoration of mangroves a top priority.

Private sector involvement, particularly through CSR initiatives, can support conservation through funding, research, and sustainable practices, aligning environmental responsibility with business strategies for regional resilience.

Preserving mangroves isn't just environmental duty; it's a shared mission for businesses and government. Data and science leave no room for doubt. The call to save our mangroves is urgent. It's time to act.

Malaysia's future hinges on harnessing nature's resilience. Let's protect the mangroves, now.

(Article provided by Toi See Jong, Chief Executive Officer of Tokio Marine Life Malaysia)

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