By Reeti Mahobe:
When one thinks of Sunderbans, the immediate picture that comes to our mind is that of Royal Bengal Tiger. What a beauty! The nature’s bestowal to us. Did you know they also played significant role in diminishing the impact of Tsunami that struck the Indian coast in the area around West Bengal? Yes they did. Sunderbans are the perfect illustration of what are called as Mangroves.
These Mangroves are bountiful in biodiversity. They constitute various kinds of trees and shrubs which survive in tropical and subtropical climate. They are capable of withstanding high salinity, tidal waves and wind velocity. They grow well in marshy and swampy lands with high temperatures. In our country they are spread over an area of 6700 square kilometres with West Bengal having the highest share. Their importance lies in the fact that they harbour abundant flora and fauna and are extremely rich in both organic and inorganic nutrients. They act as an interface between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In India, they are present in all coastal states and union territories. They help in maintaining ecological balance and as indicated earlier in mitigating the devastation caused by natural calamities such as tsunamis. For past some time ‘carbon sequestration’ has been much talked about such as in various environmental conventions and conferences. These mangrove forests act as great ‘carbon sinks’ of the world. Further they are also beneficial to local people in meeting their daily needs by being a source of timber, traditional medicine and rich fodder for cattle. Moreover, like in the case of Sunderbans, they possess great potential of being a hotspot of ecotourism.
Unfortunately, although they account for the ‘overall well being’ of Mother Nature, they are the threatened ones. These threats are experienced mainly due to land reclamation for construction activities, development of ports, waste disposal, industrial and domestic pollution, mining siltation and sedimentation andÂ over-harvestingÂ of marine resources.
Realising the significance of Mangroves, government has stepped forth with the policy initiatives such as Environmental Protection Act, 1986, Scheme on conservation and management of Mangroves, 1986, Coastal Regulation Zone notification (1991), National Conservation strategy and Policy statement on environment and development, 1992. These basically aim at conserving and protecting the Mangrove forests, afforesting and reforesting the degraded areas, maintenance of genetic diversity and creation of awareness among the people underlining the importance of these forests. The states and union territories that are participating in the scheme are Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. Also, the government has enlisted the core mangrove areas in various states on the basis of their relevance and need for conservation. The government also needs to be vigilant and strict against any construction taking place in or around these areas and take stringent against those who violate the norms.
Any scheme, programme or policy initiated by the government can never be a success unless we as the responsible and aware citizens realize our roles and duties. One must be acquainted about the mangroves near the area he or she inhabits, especially if one is staying near by the estuaries or deltas of the rivers in coastal areas. The locales must be vigilant and alert about the activities going around the area and if any case of violation is observed they must immediately report to the forest department or any of the government authorities. The citizens can also participate in plantation programmes that are organized for the purpose. The locales must be taught not to overexploit these resources especially as for fuel wood and substitutes must be well in place to cater to their needs. Be aware and don’t dare to go against nature.