Landscaping paradise? : investigating the possibility of promoting landscape literacy through the design of an educational trail in a mangrove swamp on the Andaman Islands

University essay from SLU/Landscape Architecture (until 121231)

Abstract: This master thesis is based on fieldwork conducted on the Andaman Islands, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Union Territory of India, during the winter of 2011/2012. The Andaman Islands have undergone vast changes during the last century and are now struggling to find sustainable strategies for development. As logging of timber was abolished a decade ago in order to preserve the unique environmental assets, Andaman Islands are now promoting eco-tourism as an important source of revenue. With a great influx of recent settlers, the Islands comprise a miscellaneous mix of inhabitants, of whom many lack knowledge of the local landscape and how to use its resources in a sustainable way. Through our studies, we have identified the strategy of promoting landscape literacy as a key-component for achieving sustainable development on the Andaman Islands. To be literate in landscape means to be able to identify, analyze and add up the various components of the landscape to an interconnected whole, which results in an increased awareness and often also care for the local environment. In order to promote landscape literacy, we have created an educational trail, Muddy Feet, which permits access to a mangrove swamp on South Andaman Island, and highlights the environment and variety of local species, as well as the cultural, historical and geological prerequisites of the site. We have chosen the mangroves as a point of departure since they are a crucial but often overlooked part of the overall local eco-system, facing threats due to urbanization, intensified land-use and lack of knowledge. Main benefits of mangroves are that they serve as a coastal buffer against tsunamis and tropical storms, binds soil and prevents shorelines from eroding. They also act as an important habitat for juvenile fish and a large variety of other species and constitute the livelihood of many local inhabitants. Mangroves thus hold the Andaman landscape together, both physically and metaphorically. Our hope is that Muddy Feet will serve as a platform where dialogue and education about the complexity of the mangroves and their role as part of the overall eco-system can be held. Our main target groups for the proposal are local school children and visiting tourists; the children as they will shape the future of the Islands and are a link to the overall local population, and the tourists as they will have an increasing impact on the Islands in the years to come and as they have ability to spread the awareness gained globally. Through this process we have made in-depth studies of the local prerequisites, which were then processed through applied theory, in order to understand the underlying views and representations which have influenced the Islands. ABSTRACT

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