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Strategies to be evolved for coastal eco security

By G. Venkataramani



M.S. Swaminathan

CHENNAI, JAN. 9. Multiple sustainable strategies to provide short, medium and long-term relief to the tsunami-hit coastal ecosystems and their population will be drafted by the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) at a special meeting to be convened here tomorrow, according to M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the Commission.

"It will be a special meeting to look into the distress of the fishing community in the context of the tsunami tragedy and it will discuss issues relating to the ecological and economic rehabilitation of the tsunami-hit coastal regions and their population. Senior representatives of various governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations and all stakeholders will participate in the meeting to be held at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation," said Prof. Swaminathan in an interview today.

Recalling the earlier governmental steps to protect the coastal ecosystems, he said: "The serious loss of life and property caused by the tsunami highlights the vision and wisdom of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when nearly 24 years ago she took steps to ensure that no permanent construction is permitted within 500 metres of the high tide line. It is our duty to ensure that short-term and commercial interests do not undermine the ecological security of the coastal areas. Good ecology will also be good business in the future, considering the prospects of sea level rise caused by global warming. India should become a world leader in the environmentally sustainable management of the coastal zone."

Bio-shields

On the key issues to be taken up for discussion, Prof. Swaminathan said the strengthening of the ecological foundations for sustainable livelihood security in coastal areas would be given priority. The rehabilitation of the degraded mangrove forests and erection of "bio-shields" along the coastline would get due attention. The unique "bio-shields" will consist of planting appropriate mangrove species as well as other salt-tolerant plants, including Salicornia atriplex, Casuarina, Thespesia and some species of bamboo.

The "bio-shields" programme will include raising community nurseries of these plants to provide livelihood security to the coastal population. Other strategies such as setting up coastal bio-villages, based on the principle of social inclusion, to ensure multiple livelihood options to the community and establishing a network of coastal village knowledge centres to provide early warning and location-specific information on health, water, sanitation, market and weather will also be looked into by the Commission.

Knowledge centres

"The village knowledge centres will be set up under the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy. From each village, a man and a woman will be trained and elected as a `fellow' of the academy. The Commission will train the local communities in disaster preparedness and management. NCF will also recommend the organisation of food-for-eco restoration and livelihood revival in the tsunami-affected areas," said Prof. Swaminathan.

He commended the dedicated efforts of the Governments, societal groups and philanthropic agencies in providing immediate relief to the tsunami victims.

The medium and long-term strategies for rehabilitation should be commissioned and executed in a mission mode.

The NCF has recently submitted its first report to the Union Minister for Agriculture, the Deputy Chairman and members of the Planning Commission.

The report has dealt with the short and long-term measures to address the farmers' distress that occasionally led to suicide.

It has also recommended the introduction of a multi-purpose insurance scheme to include health cover for the farming community, Prof. Swaminathan said.

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