It has dedicated unit for mangrove and coastal biodiversity conservation
As Kerala endeavoured to prepare an action plan for mangrove protection, it need not look beyond Maharashtra which has been a trailblazer in the avenue by evolving a participatory model for conservation efforts. The State has successfully proved conservation could go hand-in-hand with livelihood activities.
Maharashtra is the first and till date, the only State in the country to form a dedicated unit for mangrove and coastal biodiversity conservation.
Headed by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests N. Vasudevan of the Maharashtra Forest Department, the mangrove cell that came into being in 2012 has been instrumental in increasing the mangrove forest coverage in the State.
Mr. Vasudevan, who presented the Maharashtra success story at a workshop organised by the Kerala Forest Department here a day ago, elaborated on the efforts that went into ensuring a substantial increase in mangrove cover from 186 sq.km. in 2013 to 304 sq.km. in 2017.
During the period, the coverage in Mumbai, which presented complex problems, went up from 43 sq.km. to 64 sq.km.
“It was not a choice, but an imperative that we focused on the mangrove ecosystem. Seven years since the cell’s formation, we have been able to bring about much change. In Mumbai, that has a large number of private holdings and witnessed huge migration, we achieved results by strengthening the protection machinery,” he said.
As part of intensifying conservation in the urban region, constant patrolling was entrusted to armed personnel who were hired from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation. While the mangroves in private areas remained outside the ambit of such measures, the government constituted a committee headed by the Konkan divisional commissioner, who heads seven coastal districts in the State, to examine such cases.
The panel was entrusted with dealing with all mangrove-related complaints that pertained to forest or private lands. Around 2,000 illegal structures have been removed from the encroached mangrove areas in the region.
A different approach was adopted in rural areas where there existed resentment among farmers and coastal communities that mangroves invaded upon their agriculture land.
There, livelihood activities such as mud crab, oyster, mussel farming, ornamental fisheries, cage culture of fishes and eco-tourism were linked with mangrove conservation.
For this, mangrove co-management communities which were formed in coastal panchayats were empowered to choose the livelihood activity that suited their needs.
Different in Kerala
Mr. Vasudevan pointed out that there existed a different set of hurdles in Kerala. Location-specific strategies were necessary to ensure success in mangrove conservation, he said.
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