Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Kuala Lumpur

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With a population over 1.4 million (and approximately twice that number in the greater metropolitan area), Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia and is growing rapidly. Its sprawl is now encroaching on the mangrove forests at the coastline (approximately 35 kilometers to the west of the city centre).

These Landsat satellite images from 1974 through 2005 show the gradual spread of development and the loss of mangrove forest that has resulted. By 1975, many areas of mangrove had already been converted to agriculture. As thirty years pass, the agricultural areas expanded and more mangroves were converted to farms. At the same time, these images show the agricultural areas being converted to industrial and urban land use. Elsewhere along the Malaysian coastline, mangroves are rapidly being converted to commercial shrimp farms. Forestry Department statistics show that peninsular Malaysia had 85,800 hectares (214,500 acres) of mangrove swamp forests in 2003, down from 86,497 hectares just one year earlier.

Mangroves are biologically diverse and highly productive ecosystems that offer valuable habitats to a wide variety of both marine and terrestrial species. They are being lost at an alarming rate throughout the tropics. Protection of these areas may be needed to ensure the survival of this valuable natural resource. Nevertheless, many countries, including Malaysia are converting large areas of mangrove forest for agriculture and aquaculture. Governments will face intense economic pressure to continue converting mangroves to land use which can provide short term economic gains. Sustainable development will require tradeoffs between this short term gain and long term viability of the environment. View detailed information

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