LANGKAWI: In a move to create awareness on the importance of mangrove trees to the ecosystem, Berjaya Hotels & Resorts (BHR) kicked off an initiative called the "Mangrove 4 Life" (M4L) campaign. The programme, held over the weekend of Jan 30 and Feb 1, is a collaborative effort involving Berjaya Langkawi Resort (BLR), Institute of Foresters Malaysia (IRIM), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), and the villagers of Kuala Melaka in Kuala Teriang. Some 424 mangrove saplings planted on the coastal shoreline of Kampung Kuala Melaka by over 100 participants including staff of the BHR team, media members, National Service trainees and schoolchildren from Sekolah Kebangsaan Kuala Teriang. Led by MNS personnel, participants formed a 500-metre wave breaker with six-feet high PVC tubes along the shoreline of Kampung Kuala Melaka before planting the Rhizophora mucronata saplings to reduce the impact of waves and increase the chances of survival and growth of these trees, which are able to flower within a year of planting. BHR Group Director for Corporate Marketing and Communications Abel Nelson Nang said the programme, which is part of BHR's corporate social responsibility "LIVE & Care", served as a local platform to strengthen efforts on the conservation of mangroves in the country as well as to educate people on the importance and significant contributions of these forests to the ecosystem. "Everything that nature provides serves a purpose. People might not see it yet, but mangroves give in many ways to the earth. "One is that these crossings between land and sea act as natural coastal defence," he said, adding that many coastal communities survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami due to coastal protection that was provided by mangrove swamps. He also pointed out that during the 2004 Boxing Day disaster, Kampung Kuala Melaka was one of the few places which was severely hit and damaged by the waves in Malaysia, as there was no engineered coastal protection in the area. "The first step in our M4L campaign, we are focusing on replanting mangrove trees in this area as for these coastal communities to recover and achieve sustainability, conserving and restoring their surrounding mangrove ecosystems is essential," he said. The M4L campaign, also saw MNS personnel and media members educating a group of 48 students, aged between 10 and 12 years, from SK Kuala Teriang on the importance of mangrove trees and awareness in conserving it through the Mangrove Awareness Workshop. The students were also given an opportunity to plant an additional 98 mangrove saplings at Berjaya Langkawi Resort's mangrove site. MNS Communications Head Andrew J. Sebastian, who was present at the campaign, stressed that mangrove habitats and ecosystems are of utmost environmental importance for a whole range of reasons. "They store and cycle nutrients, filter pollutants, protect shorelines from erosion and storms, and play a vital role in modulating climate as they are a major carbon sink and oxygen source, and, in addition, sustain livelihoods of coastal communities," he said. He hoped that this project could restore balance to the ecosystem of Kuala Melaka and contribute to conserving these functions that benefit the environment. Nang told reporters that the M4L campaign is not a one-off event and he is looking forward to bringing about awareness of the importance of mangrove trees among hotel guests as well as to get them to participate in similar tree-planting programmes in the near future.