Shrimp aquaculture is currently one of the major threats to mangroves, their destruction causing both environmental and social problems. This study investigated the mangrove area in the Pambala–Chilaw Lagoon complex (07°30′ N, 079°49′ E) in Sri Lanka. Using air-borne remote sensing, a land-use map was constructed in a geographical information system of the study area and pond managers were interviewed about the functioning of their shrimp farms. Based on fieldwork during the four years after taking the aerial photographs, an updated GIS-based land-use map was constructed and compared the original situation. This revealed that shrimp farms had expanded with by 25 ha in four years, mainly at the expense of mangrove forest (approx. 13 ha) and coconut plantations (approx. 11 ha). Official documents from the World Conservation Union advise conservation of the undisturbed habitats in Pambala, but this study's observations do not corroborate an eventuation of this. Other authors reported political patronage as the main cause of this adverse situation. Since the shrimp industry depends on various ecological services provided by the mangrove ecosystem in order to maintain production (cf. ecological footprint concept) the mangrove destruction is counter-productive and these observations are therefore alarming for the aquaculturists as well. The low ratio (2.6 : 1) of remaining mangrove to shrimp pond area suggests that the industry may experience severe problems, particularly as mangrove areas continue to be reclaimed for aquaculture or other land uses, unless drastic measures are taken.
"Environment, Development and Sustainability" – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 10, 2004
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