The devastating impact of Cyclone Nargis, which has killed at least 22,000 people in Myanmar, could have been mitigated if mangrove forests had remained intact, says the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Mangrove forests are densely vegetated and act as natural storm barriers, but many of the forests in Myanmar have been converted into shrimp or fish farms. “Encroachment into mangrove forests, which used to serve as a buffer … between big waves and storms and residential areas — all those lands have been destroyed,” said ASEAN’s Surin Pitsuwan. “Human beings are now direct victims of such natural forces.” And of their natural lack of foresight.