Lonely Planet Writer

Sri Lanka opens world’s first mangrove museum

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World Mangrove Day has been celebrated in style in Sri Lanka with the opening of the world’s first mangrove museum in Pabbala, Chilaw.

Sri Lanka opens a Mangrove museum.
Sri Lanka opens a Mangrove museum. Image by Abdullah Muashi / CC BY 2.0

The launch coincides with the first anniversary of a national project to preserve all of the island’s mangrove forests, which are seen as a vital resource for mitigating the effects of climate change.  According to the organisation Seacology, which pioneered the Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project, mangrove forests can sequester up to five times more carbon than any other kind of forest, as well as providing an essential nursery habitat for many of the fish species that Sri Lankan fishermen depend on.

Studies have shown that Sri Lanka’s fringing mangroves also played a significant role in reducing the impact of the 2004 tsunami. Although more than 36,000 lives were lost in the disaster in Sri Lanka, the death toll was massively reduced in villages with fringing mangrove forests, which have the ability to absorb up to 90% of the energy from ordinary ocean waves.

The new mangrove museum will be used as an educational tool for Sri Lankan school children, with 20,000 pupils estimated to visit in its first year. The hope is that valuing Sri Lanka’s mangrove forests will become hard-wired into the culture of the next generation of Sri Lankans to help preserve the country’s coastal forests for posterity.