Mangroves Mehta

At last year’s United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta vowed to lead the way on a mangrove planting project to combat climate change. Now, 10 countries have agreed to support the project.

By Doug Wills

A pledge made at COP26 to restore vital coastal regions with mangroves in the battle against global warming is now under way.

India will be the first of 10 Commonwealth countries that have joined the project, which is viewed as a significant move to replant the “forests of the sea”.

The news was confirmed by RI President Shekhar Mehta during a four-day visit to London, which included attending meetings at the House of Commons, the House of Lords and with the Lord Mayor of London.

“Different countries and organisations will find their own solutions. Each of us has that one drop of water and Rotary’s contribution is the mangroves project.”

In a wide-ranging interview with journalist and broadcaster Mihir Bose, Shekhar told how he had met with leaders of many of the countries represented at a special forum on the mangroves project, brought together at COP26 by Rotary International and Baroness Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Shekhar said he had been convinced of the crucial importance of mangroves from personal experience of the devastation from the 2004 tsunami.

Following the COP26 pledge, he located leaders of those countries eager to be a part of the Rotary International/Commonwealth project.

Asked what he would tell the climate change doubters, Shekhar replied: “Where there is not supposed to be rain, there is flooding, when there is supposed to be rain, there are droughts.

“I would take him to one of the places where there is deforestation. This is not how the world was created.”

At COP26, seven countries had agreed to support the mangrove replanting project. This has already grown to include India, Maldives, Seychelles, Kenya, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Tanzania, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Mozambique, which will all be coordinated by the Commonwealth Blue Charter team.

The first scheme is beginning in Kolkata, India. Shekha had support from the other countries and was talking with them about when their projects would begin. He said he would hope to bring more into the project.

“We may not have the answer to all the problems,” Shekha said. “The mangroves by Rotary isn’t going to turn the climate change issue. There are other projects, plastics for example.

“Different countries and organisations will find their own solutions. Each of us has that one drop of water and Rotary’s contribution is the mangroves project.”

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Nicholas Hardman Mountford, said the Commonwealth is home to over a third of the world’s mangroves. They provide essential coastal protection, food security and livelihoods for millions, as well as helping mitigate climate change through their highly efficient capturing of CO2 from the atmosphere.

“This is why in 2018, Sri Lanka stepped forward to champion a Commonwealth Blue Charter action group on mangroves that is bringing Commonwealth countries together to share knowledge and best practices in mangrove restoration and management,” Dr Nicholas said.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Rotary International through the Blue Charter to take forward local mangrove projects across our Commonwealth.”