JAKARTA (AP): Countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami should plant trees
along their coastlines and prohibit rebuilding too close to the sea to prevent
more damage if another tsunami strikes, the United Nations said on Monday.
The UN Environment Program said that anecdotal evidence and satellite
photography showed mangrove forests, peat swamps and other coastal vegetation
functioned as a natural barrier against the Dec. 26 waves that were triggered by
an earthquake offIndonesia's Sumatra Island.
"Healthy coastal ecosystems protected people and property," the agency said in a
report assessing the environmental destruction caused by the tsunami. "Priority
should be given to nearshore forest development, as trees will help absorb the
energy of future tsunamis."
The disaster caused US$675 million of environmental damage in Indonesia's Aceh
province, the worst hit region, the agency said.
Around 300-kilometers of coastal land in the province, in the northern tip of
Sumatra, was damaged or lost, the report said.
Indonesia's government has proposed enacting laws prohibiting the building of
villages less than a mile from the sea to create a buffer against future
tsunami, though details of the plan are still being worked out.
"Regulations specifying minimum distances from the shoreline for housing
development are important means of protecting against tsunamis, storm surges and
sea level rise," it said. "Those who lose the rights to use their land as a
result of changes in the law may need to be compensated, and donor assistance
may beessential for this purpose."
The Indian Ocean tsunami crashed into shorelines across 11 nations and killed
from 172,000 to 182,000, with more than 100,000 still missing and presumed dead.