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The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 inspired governments in South-East Asia to restore mangrove forests along their coasts as a natural 'bioshield' against storm damage (see 'Bioshield' proposed to protect India's coast). But significant challenges are threatening their progress.

In an article in Nature this week (15 December), Erika Check describes how mangrove replanting programmes in India and Indonesia are struggling in the face of pressure from developers wanting to build shrimp farms.

Despite massive government support for the programmes – Indonesia alone has promised US$22 million – there are already signs that enthusiasm is flagging.

The Indonesian government has turned some newly damaged coastline over to shrimp farmers, despite its official support for buffer zones.

Moreover, many of the 300,000 seedlings planted on the Aceh coast earlier this year have died, destroyed by debris still washing up, and the contractors hired there have no incentive to continue caring for the young plants.

Local communities need to be involved for such programmes to succeed, say the Wetlands International Indonesia Programme. The programme provides financial incentives for local villages to plant and ensure an agreed number of seedlings survive after five years.

In India, such programmes have been running since 1993 with great success: around three-quarters of seedlings have survived, protecting the local community from the brunt of the tsunami's devastation last year.

Link to full article in Nature