Luxury Development Versus Mangroves: Environmental Education Could Be the Key in Mozambique

the luxury developments in Maputo
Magazine Independente
Maputo, Mozambique
Luxury Development Versus Mangroves: Environmental Education Could Be the Key in Mozambique

According to Global Mangrove Watch (GMW), Mozambican mangrove have an estimated economic value of around US$7.8 billion, and has been one of the most degraded in the western region of the Indian Ocean. GMW data indicate that, the  degradation rate is of about 0.32 percent, the highest in the region, mainly caused by timber exploitation, conversion of forests to other uses like agriculture, aquaculture, salt making, traditional medicine, and urban growth in coastal areas among others.

Almeida Francisco, 39, witnessed the proliferation of luxury houses in mangrove forest areas in the city's belt, specifically the Bairro dos Pescadores, Triunfo, Costa do Sol (a fishermen's neighborhood).

According to Francisco, with the destruction of mangroves,  in the costal line seawater invades the neighborhoods established along ago flooding homes mostly of poor fishermen like him who have to catch fish for survival.

“People are encroaching on the mangroves and building new housing. As former inhabitants of the area, we are now suffering from the fury of the seawater. In February this year, our neighbors had to be sheltered, due to the rise of seawater in their homes, and since then,  for us, who depend on the Fauna of this area rich in shrimp, crab, fish, and molluscs, we no longer have them in the same quantity and quality as previous because their habitant, is devastated,” he said.

Francisco statement about the annihilation of the ecosystem by mangrove deforestation is proven by studies carried out by Eduardo Mondlane University through the department of biologic science which shows the more mangroves are destroyed the less Fauna is found.

The fisherman’s description also tells of one of the impacts of mangrove destruction, whether from human action or natural causes takin out the Flora  (Mangroves), that grow on riverbanks and coastlines, considered “blue carbon ecosystems”,  which, help filter pollutants in the water. Mangrove are a natural barrier against storms and are the habitat of several species of plants and fish such as shrimp and crab they also, reduce storm surge, flood levels, and the impacts of large waves and high wind speeds occurring during major storms.

The municipality of Maputo classify the area where mangrove are destroyed for new luxury homes as a “protected zone”, but, corruption turns the effort in nil. Mangrove destruction still go on in the area, appeals from urban planners to avoid construction in the area are neglected, the municipality even promoted demolition of some new luxury homes and electricity cut but, but the move, seem to be stronger than municipality actions.

The little mangrove still spotted in the area, is in danger of not developing as expected, once, local communities use them, as sewers and waste disposal site, endangering the ecosystem.

The destruction of mangrove for housing can be  linked to population growth in Maputo, which according to INE data, between 2007 and 2017 was the highest population growth in the country, calculated at 60.7%.

A new luxury house with white walls and a pink fence, next to some trees
A new luxury housing unit / Credit: Elisio Muchanga.

Law enforcement and environmental education are needed

While the government is committed to replanting the 5,000 hectares of mangroves by December, the environmentalist and environmental consultant for Planeta Azul (an NGO dedicated to environmental education for sustainability) Mário Ngonga, argues that, just planting mangroves is not the solution, there must be environmental education actions to follow.

“Planting mangroves will not work if there is no strong environmental education about the importance of fragile ecosystems following the reforestation,” he said.

The impact of the destruction of mangroves for luxury housing and timber not only endangers the ecosystem, biodiversity and the life of marine species, despite no evidence of extinction of any species yet, also jeopardizes the durability of the buildings themselves, which cannot last long, however robust they may seem to be. “Those houses are a luxury today but in a few years they will lose their value and many will be abandoned ruins, because nature always regenerates itself,” explained the environmentalist.

Like the other interviewees, Ngonga points out the lack of management of coastal areas and poor law enforcement as factors behind the continuous degradation of the mangroves for luxurious residences, and mentions there is no need to create new laws to regulate this situation: “we only have to enforce the existing law, which in reality does not happen”.

a person walks down the road, behind them there is a building and some trees, and a sign that says "municipal protection zone, prohibited to build" but the sign has fallen over halfway
The sign, which has fallen over, says in Portuguese, "Municipal protection zone. Prohibited to build." / Credit: Elisio Muchanga.

The architect Jancito Nhantumbo, states that the destruction of the mangroves for luxury housing is carried out by people who are well aware of the laws but ignore them and he calls for more environmental education.

Nhantumbo also points a finger at the  building engineer  saying that “The architects, the civil constructor, the master builder, everyone wants money, and when financial ambition is greater than environmental concern, what is already known happens, acceptance of a project in a risky and above all illegal location. They are also partly to blame because they are aware of it and yet they do it, degrading nature and endangering the lives of people and the ecosystem.”

The concern with the mangroves, also worries the mayor of Maputo City Eneas Comiche,  which during the celebration of the Environment Day, drew attention to sustainable life, in harmony with nature.

The Mayor also referred to the need of promoting educational activities that reinforce awareness of the environmental dangers as a way of preventing the degradation of ecosystems.

Mangrove restoration at a good pace

According to World Wildlife Found (WWF), mangrove forests of Mozambique are the 13th largest global cover, and third largest in Africa, with about, 300 000 ha and eight distinct species such as: White mangrove (Avicennia marina), red (Rhizophora mucronata), black (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza), yellow (Ceriops tagal), apple (Sonneratia alba), Lumnitzera racemosa, Heritiera costalis and cannon ball (Xylocarpus granatum). However, the destruction is a reality though the government has committed with the United Nations (UN), in replanting 5,000 hectares of mangroves by December this year, within the scope of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.  

The destruction of the mangrove brings as a first consequence the loss of the local ecosystem, poor coastal protection against cyclones, among others, and it is in this context that the Government has been making efforts to restore the mangroves forests. And as a mangrove reforestation effort, the government has recently approved the Mangrove Management Strategy and the Mangrove Ecosystem Restoration Plan, yet it has set a goal of planting 5,000 mangroves along the coast.

In pursuit of the fulfilment of the goals assumed with the United Nations, the Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Lidia Cardoso, assured  during the celebrations of the International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove, that, the country has registered improvements in the replacement of destroyed mangroves; however, there is still more to be done.

“From our goal of 5000 hectares, we have made progress on 4,507.25 hectares of restored mangrove forest, which corresponds to 90.15 percent of the achievement rate. It means, in other words, that, by the end of the year, we have the mission to restore 9.85 percent, so that we can effectively achieve, with success and joy before the world, our commitment of 5000 hectares,” she explained.

According to the Minister, the City and Province of Maputo were at the top of achieving the objectives, having reached 482.89 percent of the achievement rate, thanks to the restoration of an area of 1,448.66 hectares, of the 300 hectares initially planned. Maputo City and Province are followed by Sofala Province, which has already reached 109.11 percent, corresponding to an increase of 2000 hectares, out of the 1833 programmed.

people standing next to baby mangrove trees that are being replanted
Mangrove replanting initiatives / Credit: Elisio Muchanga.

The Minister said on the occasion that this success should not mean a relaxation of the conservation actions of marine and coastal biodiversity undertaken by the Government, communities, associations and volunteers.

The planting of 5,000 hectares of mangrove forest is also part of the mangrove restoration program, launched by the Government, with funding from Sweden, the European Union and other non-governmental organizations that help build local resilience capacities, to climate change, through the restoration of coastal ecosystems.

 The role of NGOs

Mangrove reforestation is not just the government's task; NGOs also contribute to the government's effort to restore mangroves.  One of the examples in the fight against mangrove deforestation is taken by  SATHUMA, and Natura both NGO dedicated to environmental issues based in Maputo,  which in 2020,  carried out a pilot project to produce 5,000-mangrove seedlings along the bank of the Matola River with the help of the local workforce.

rows of mangrove seedlings in a tent
Rows of mangrove seedlings waiting to be planted / Credit: Elisio Muchanga.

According to the project implementers, the production results showed that the application of the soil conditioner (liquid carbon) provides a greater development of the root system, which contributes to a greater vigor of the plant in the post-planting period. This allowed a production of over 20,000 (twenty thousand) seedlings of different species in 2021.  The association expects to produce more than 50,000 (fifty thousand) mangrove seedlings by the end of 2022,

The Eden Reforestation Association, also a non-profit organization whose objectives are to promote and protect the ecosystem through mangrove restoration and reforestation, is not far behind in Mangrove replanting actions.

The Eden Reforestation Association is currently present in six provinces, namely: Maputo, Sofala, Manica, Zambézia, Nampula, and Cabo Delgado. It has around 1119 employees nationwide, and has already reforested around 4272 hectares of mangroves nationwide.

Despite these numbers, it is recognized by the government that, there are still challenges to overcome, pointing out which provinces need to make an additional effort. “Among the provinces are Cabo Delgado, at the moment, with only 10.24 percent of completion rate of mangrove reforestation; Zambézia, with 32.99 percent; and Nampula, which has already reached 42.67 percent”, revealed the Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Lidia Cardoso.

Climate Fund with a negative trend for Mozambique

Mozambique has committed to a series of mitigation actions that aim to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by about 40 million tCO2 equivalent between 2020 and 2025.

Due to their ability to absorb carbon, mangrove forests, known as 'carbon sinks' or 'carbon-rich biomes', can help the country achieve its climate goals, By storing excess carbon, mangrove help reduce global warming as their presence results in less carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere.

The destruction of the mangrove ecosystem is a problem for the government; forcing policymakers to seek for financial support to mitigate the destruction of mangroves, at a time when climate finance is scarce and particularly, the country's access to International Climate Funds are also a concern.

According to Albino Manjate from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, contrary to the global trend, in recent years the amount of funding from the International Climate Funds to Mozambique has shown a negative trend.

“The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) have historically been the largest contributor but in recent years has shown a drastic reduction, as is the case with the Adaptation Fund, a priority of the country aligned with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that the country received only 3.5 million USD in the last two years”, said Manjate.

However, recently in Stockholm, the Minister of Land and Environment Ivete Maibase, advocated for more funding for adaptation to climate change.

“The increased availability of climate and environmental funds around the world urges beneficiary countries to improve their tracking tools and transparent mechanisms,” said the Minister.

 The minister also affirmed that despite the harmful effects of consecutive cyclones like Gombe, Idai and Kenneth that destroyed a lot of infrastructure, […] some of the infrastructure financed by climate fund initiatives like LoCAL and MERCIM, supported by UNCDF, are still standing. “This is an excellent example that demonstrates the importance of access to climate funds,” she said.

Climate resilience, ecosystem protection as well as reforestation, protection and sustainable use of mangroves, are actions that go with community involvement as well as availability of funds.

This story was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network. It was first published in Portuguese by Magazine Independente in print on 11 October 2022 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: Luxury developments / Credit: Elisio Muchanga.

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