It was mangroves that saved thousands of lives in five hamlets of Pichavaram area in South India's Cuddalore district on Dec. 26 last year.
While the waters headed straight for a kill, the mangroves stood guard, and took the impact of the killer waves, shielding the villages from them. And today, with little fish at sea, fishermen are fishing in the same mangrove areas and making their livelihood.
According to Cuddalore District Collector Bedi, five of the 17 villages were saved by the mangroves.
These villages have a total of 1,228 families. When waves struck, the mangroves cut down the volume and speed of water, saving thousands of lives and property.
Liyakash Ali Khan, a village administrative officer in Pichavaram area, said that the damage could have been severe had mangroves not covered the villages. "The remaining 11 which had no mangroves suffered severe damages to life and property," he says.
In fact, the mangrove trees themselves did not suffer serious damage either. Only a few trees got uprooted, securing the inner areas. Also, many fishermen at sea rushed and took shelter in the mangroves.
what bliss have the mangroves been? Well, compare the five villages to the remaining unprotected Pichavaram villages and you can see the difference.
Hundreds of lives have been lost in the area. One of the villages, Pillumedu, alone lost 30 children and 13 adults, another neighboring village lost about 150 people. Other villages also lost dozens of lives. Their shelters were washed away and they lost their homes, livestock and livelihood.
Groundnut fields also suffered some damage in unprotected areas. Now, the Cuddalore administration and non-governmental organizations are busy reconstructing lives of affected Pichavaram areas while people from the protected ones look on and thank the mangroves for saving their lives.
Pichavaram, India's mangroves area, has 16 varieties of angiosperms and attracts tourists from all over the country.