Tsunami Takes Huge Environmental Toll

According to environmentalists, the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people last December also wreaked havoc on the natural environment across all affected areas.

“The environmental damage has been huge, from the obvious and visible destruction along the coastal areas to the possibility of extinction of certain species,” says Ridha Saleh, who directs Walhi, a leading environmental group in Indonesia. Saleh lists destroyed beaches, damaged coral reefs, polluted groundwater, loss of wildlife habitat and salt contamination of farmland as major environmental catastrophes in their own right.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian chapter of the Nature Conservancy has issued a similar preliminary assessment: “Initial reports indicate that natural ecological systems such as coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands have suffered extensive impacts. Important research facilities for studying and monitoring these environments are reportedly also severely damaged.”

The United Nations has assigned a team of 12 analysts to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of the tsunami, but the group will not begin work for at least two weeks as rescue and recovery efforts are still underway throughout the region.

“Walhi has a really big network here and we’re still looking for many missing activists. It hasn’t settled down enough to think about the environment,” Saleh concludes.

Source: www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/29080/story.htm