Mangrove Forest in India Mangrove forests are one of the most productive and bio diverse wetlands on earth. Yet, these unique coastal tropical forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world. They may be disappearing more quickly than inland tropical reinforests, and so far, with little public notice. Growing in the inter-tidal areas and estuary mouths between land and sea, mangroves provide critical habitat for a diverse marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. Healthy mangrove forests are key to a healthy marine ecology. Mangroves are marine tidal forests and they are most luxuriant around the mouths of large rivers and in sheltered bays and are found mainly in tropical countries where annual rainfall is fairly high. Mangrove plants include trees, shrubs, ferns and palms. These plants are found in the tropics and sub-tropics on riverbanks and along coastlines, being unusually adapted to anaerobic conditions of both salt and fresh water environments. These plants have adapted to muddy, shifting, saline conditions. They produce stilt roots, which project above the mud and water in order to absorb oxygen. Mangrove plants form communities which help to stabilize banks and coastlines and become home to many types of animals. However, in many areas of the world, mangrove deforestation contributing to fisheries declines, degradation of clean water supplies and salinisation of coastal soils, erosion, and land subsidence, as well as the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In fact, mangrove forests fix more carbon dioxide per unit area than phytoplankton in tropical oceans. Mangrove forests once covered ¾ of the coastlines of tropical and sub-tropical countries. Today less than 50% remain, and of this remaining forest, over 50% is degraded and not in good form. There needs be greater protection on primary or high quality mangrove sites knowing that the total remaining area will continue to decrease. Many factors contribute to mangrove forest loss, including the charcoal and timber industries, urban growth pressures, and mounting pollution problems. However, one of the most recent and significant causes of mangrove forest loss in the past decade has been the consumer demand for luxury shrimp, or “prawns”, and the corresponding expansion of destructive production methods of export-oriented industrial shrimp aquaculture. Vast tracts of mangrove forests have been cleared to make way for the establishment of coastal shrimp farm facilities. MANAGEMENT OF MANGROVES IN INDIA In India, mangroves occur on the West Coast, on the East Coast and on Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but in many places they are highly degraded. According to the Government of India (1987), India lost 40 percent of its mangrove area in the last century. The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) recorded a decline of 7000 ha of mangroves in India within the six-year period from 1975 to 1981. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands about 22 400 ha of mangroves were lost between 1987 and 1997.
Table I Area distribution of mangroves in India (thousand ha) State/Union territory Government of India, 1987 Government of India, 1997 West Bengal (Sunderbans) 420 212.3 Andaman and Nicobar 119 96.6 Islands Maharashtra 33 12.4 Gujarat 26 99.1 Andhra Pradesh 20 38.3 Tamil Nadu 15 2.1 Orissa 15 21.1 Karnataka 6 0.3 Goa 20 0.5 Kerala Sparse Nil Total 674 482.7
India has a long tradition of mangrove forest management. The Sunderbans mangroves, located in the Bay of Bengal (partly in India and partly in Bangladesh), were the first mangroves in the world to be put under scientific management. Other mangroves of the East Coast are found in the deltas of the Godavari, Krishna Mahanadi and Kollidam rivers and in smaller patches along the coast. The area’s first management plan was implemented in 1892 (Chaudhuri and Choudhury, 1994). More recently, the concern of the Government of India for the conservation of forests and wildlife was clearly demonstrated by a 1976...
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