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National institute for mangrove research planned in W. Bengal

Special Correspondent

Aim is to provide a scientific approach to preserving the country’s mangroves

— Photo: K. Gopinathan

Conservation: (From left) O.K. Remadevi, organising secretary; Managing Director of Karnataka State Forest Industries Corporation P.J. Dilip Kumar; Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Development) M.H.A. Shaik; and Director of the Institute of Wood Science and Technology Suresh Gairola at the national workshop on ‘Mangroves in India: biodiversity, protection and environmental services,’ in Bangalore on Thursday.

BANGALORE: The Director, Ministry of Environment and Forests, J. R. Bhatt, on Thursday said the Union Government had decided to set up a national institute for mangrove research and biodiversity management for providing a scientific approach to preserving the country’s mangroves as well as biodiversity.

Addressing a national workshop on “Mangroves in India: Biodiversity, protection and environmental services” organised by the Institute of Wood Sciences and Technology (IWST) here, Dr. Bhatt said the institute would come up in the Sundarbans of West Bengal.

He said the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, issued by the Union Government, had given priority to conservation and development of mangroves by categorising them as ecologically sensitive areas.

A national committee on mangroves and coral reefs had identified 38 areas in the country, including four in Karnataka, as suitable for preserving and also developing mangroves. This included Kundapura, Honnavar, Karwar and Mangalore, Dr. Bhatt said.

The Centre would encourage States to preserve important ecosystems like mangroves by providing financial assistance, he said. The Centre had recently sought proposals from the States on the steps to be taken for preserving mangroves.

Director of the Institute of Wood Science and Technology Suresh Gairola noted that mangroves in India accounted for about 5 per cent of those in the world and were spread over 4,461 sq km along the coast of 12 States. West Bengal had the largest mangrove area in the country, followed by Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar islands. West Bengal itself accounted for 46 per cent of the country’s mangroves.

India, which had lost nearly 50 per cent of its mangroves in the last 50 years, had the dubious distinction of being one of the leading countries in destruction of mangroves.

Over-harvesting, coastal aquaculture, agriculture, reclamation of land for development, pollution and oil spills were mainly responsible for large-scale destruction of mangroves, he said.

Managing Director of Karnataka State Forest Industries Corporation P.J. Dilip Kumar expressed concern that hunger for land with respect to industries, infrastructure, special economic zones and other development projects was shrinking the size of mangroves, which formed an important an unique ecosystem.

Stressing the need for preserving such ecosystem, he, however, expressed reservation over handing over the task of preserving and developing mangroves to industries. “I am sceptical about such an approach,” he said while “remarking that ecological security cannot be achieved if there are economic interests.”

Instead, all the stakeholders should be involved in the process of preserving such ecosystems, he suggested.

Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Development) M.H.A. Shaik too stressed the need for taking care of the interests of the stakeholders for better management of mangroves.

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