A desire to protect the sea's advance by planting mangroves.
Since 1990, in the municipality of Kalibo in the North of Panay Island, the KASAMA association (KAlibo SAve the Mangrove Association) has been maintaining the Bukhawan Eco-Park, which now constitutes a natural barrier against climatic disasters. Unlike the former recreational beach, this 250-hectare park of mangroves, entirely created by man, has notably reduced the impact of floods and typhoons in the region while improving biodiversity and the daily living conditions of the inhabitants.
The Bukhawan Eco Park.
The Bukhawan Eco Park is located within the municipality of Kalibo which includes 16 Barangays, 7 of which are coastal and where fishing represents more than 30% of the local activities of the 110,000 inhabitants. This park was created in 1990 thanks to the association KASAMA, created in 1989, relying on 30 families for the plantation of the first 50 hectares of mangrove in the region. It is important to note that historically, there was no mangrove in this area, which makes this forest a "man made forest" replacing the old leisure beach.
The region is particularly marked by an intensification of flooding episodes which have also become less and less predictable since the 1980s. In addition, there has been a strong increase in coastal erosion, particularly due to the violence of typhoons.
A coastal protection project led by the KASAMA association.
Due to the intensification of these climatic episodes and the increase of their impacts on coastal populations, the KASAMA association decided, in agreement with the local government and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), to replace the recreational beach as seen above. It is the DENR that made this project possible by providing free seedlings at the beginning of the project.
The association is now made up of 250 members, 25 of whom work full time on the ecopark. The planting of mangroves, a technique given by DENR, which consists of planting a tree every meter by hanging it on a stake to prevent it from being washed away by the tides, is mainly carried out by the members of this association. The latter receive 1 pesos for each recovered plant and 1 pesos each time they plant a new one. This cost is borne by the LGU, which also helps to develop activities in the park by inviting students and NGOs to take part in planting activities.
In 30 years, the ecopark has grown from 250,000 trees on 50ha to more than 1,900,000 trees on about 250ha with a composition of 80% Rhizophora Mangle ("red mangrove"), 10% Api Api (or Avicennia Marina, "black mangrove") and a few other minority species.
Issues and conflicts caused by the establishment of the eco park.
The establishment of this park has not been without encountering many conflicts. Indeed, the local population initially preferred to keep the leisure beach rather than see a mangrove instead. The association took some time before succeeding in changing mentalities and allowing the inhabitants to realize all the advantages allowed by the ecopark with notably tourism which is now much more important than at the time.
Moreover, during the early stages of the project in the 1990s, the park encountered many problems of illegal logging (for coal, construction or domestic fires) and illegal fishing. This forced the association to create an ecopolice in 2000, which is now made up of 12 ecopolicers, 8 of whom are paid by the LGU and 4 directly by the park.
Finally, no one suffered financially when the park was set up because even the fishermen who were traditionally present on the site were moved by only 30m to an area specifically allocated for them. Moreover, this has even been beneficial to them because the mangrove ecosystem now allows them to fish closer to the coast instead of going more than 3 km offshore as before.
The mangrove's primary purpose is to form a physical barrier against typhoons and tsunamis by breaking the waves and blocking the current: the forest protects the regions from sea level rises and absorbs the shock of the waves. One example is the case of a tsunami in 2013 that would have raised the water level by only 25 cm on the barangays of the ecopark against a rise of almost 2 metres for the houses located less than 5 kilometres from the mangrove area.
We can also note that the mangrove allows at the same time an absorption of salt, a decrease of the surrounding temperature but also an effective fight against coastal erosion. Indeed, where erosion is an extremely important issue, it is also an effective fight against coastal erosion.
Moreover, the Kalibo mangrove is a new ecosystem that locally leads to an increase in the populations of species already present but also to the appearance of new species such as birds, molluscs and mammals. In order to monitor the evolution of these populations, members of the association carry out counts with traps to be taken every morning. These have been trained by international researchers (Australia, United Kingdom and Japan) and by DENR staff who attend monthly meetings as technical assistants and who may ask to see these inventories to monitor the populations present.
Finally, from a health point of view, this mangrove forest fights against the red tides that attack cockleshells and which are rampant in other municipalities without ever reaching Kalibo.
The Eco Park allows the implementation of a whole economic system with the local populations.
Coupled with these environmental benefits, the Kalibo Municipality Eco Park also brings economic spin-offs through the activities it sets up. In particular, these various economic activities can be divided into two main groups: according to whether the revenues are for the park or for the population.
Firstly, the economic spin-offs for the ecopark correspond to tourism and sales activities. Indeed, the park offers for sale: citronella grown locally, green charcoal made from the leaves of trees, worms for consumption but also mangrove seedlings (3 pesos for the seeds, 15 pesos for the plant) for NGOs or other parks. At the same time, the park sells more than 30,000 park entrance tickets per year and also offers an on-site catering service. The tickets alone finance the park's overall monthly budget of 150,000 pesos (of which 10,000 are used solely for the maintenance of the wooden footbridge through the forest).
The members of the association can manage cockles and crabs on the park, the profits of which go directly to them.
There is no real long-term vision regarding the aggravation of climate change on this project. Indeed, their policy is mainly based on a willingness to "plant, plant, always plant" as the land advances over the sea.
What can we learn from the Eco Park set up by KASAMA?
The artificial mangrove forest of Kalibo seems to be a good lever to fight effectively against climatic disasters in the region by acting as a natural barrier against waves and strong winds. Moreover, this ecopark allows the development of social activities by allowing the members of the association to take part in the life of the park and its maintenance. The only potentially problematic point is the long term vision, as they have not changed their policy in 30 years where climate change has become more pronounced.
We were impressed by the seriousness with which this ecopark is maintained by the association, which has a real will to safeguard it both in its vocation as a natural barrier and as a rich ecosystem. All the ecosystem control and monitoring activities are carried out by members of the association, which makes it possible to involve the population.
The technique used to plant the mangrove has often been criticized but we do not have the knowledge to compare these different techniques.