May 6, 2008 (DVB)-Destruction of Burma’s mangrove forests may have contributed to the devastating impact of the recent cyclone that swept the country, ASEAN leader Dr Surin Pitsuwan said in a speech today.
Dr Surin said population increases had led to an "encroachment into the mangrove forests which used to serve as a buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and the residential area," he said in a speech in Singapore quoted by AFP.
"All those lands have been destroyed. Human beings are now direct victims of such natural forces."
Deforestation, often a result of population pressures, commercial logging or construction projects, can leave coastal regions and hilly areas more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
The World Rainforest Movement highlighted the problems caused by deforestation in Burma in a 2002 report in which it described the mangroves of the Irrawaddy Delta as "some of the most degraded or destroyed mangrove systems in the Indo-Pacific".
WRM blamed the declining mangroves on upstream deforestation and the conversion of mangrove forests into prawn farms.
The Irrawaddy Delta region and the former capital Rangoon bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis, which hit Burma on 2 May.
The latest government figures state that 22,000 people were killed in the natural disaster, 10,000 of those reported to be in Bogalay township alone.
Many thousands more have been made homeless or are suffering shortages of food, water and electricity.
Reporting by Siân Thomas