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Concern over destruction of mangroves

R. Jagadeeswara Rao

‘They not only prevent soil erosion but also act as catalyst in reclaiming land from sea’


Mangroves have almost disappeared in West Godavari and in parts of East Godavari

If not restored, it will lead to vulnerability to coastal storms, cyclones


— Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Vast stretches of mangrove plantations have been cleared for industrialisation near the Naval Dockyard area in Visakhapatnam.

VISAKHAPATNAM: Degradation and destruction of mangroves in Krishna, West and East Godavari districts have been a cause of serious concern to environmentalists. Andhra Pradesh has the second largest mangrove forests in the country, the first being West Bengal.

According to D.E. Babu, professor and Head of Zoology Department, Andhra University, in East Godavari mangroves are distributed in an area of 32,580 hectares covering 380 km. Thanks to the aquaculture boom in the early 80s, mangroves almost disappeared in West Godavari district and in parts of East Godavari district. Recently, mangroves in some 200 acres have been destroyed for industrial purpose in Krishna district, which has triggered a hue and cry.

Livelihood concerns

In East Godavari, 99 villages with a population of 35 lakhs depend on the mangroves directly or indirectly. Any degradation will adversely affect lives and livelihood of these people, he points out.

In Visakhapatnam, stretches of mangrove plantations near Chavulamadum have been cleared for industrialisation. In Bhairavapalem in East Godavari district, more than 200 acres of mangrove plantations have been destroyed for industrialisation, he recalls.

Mangroves are not only important but also crucial for States like Andhra Pradesh, which has a long coastal area. Since estuarine areas are highly populated, the slightest ecological imbalance will take a heavy toll during natural calamities. Mangroves play a vital role in stabilising these areas. Mangroves are buffers between land and sea. They not only prevent soil erosion but also act as catalyst in reclaiming land from the sea. Mangrove forests and estuaries are breeding and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms, including the commercially important shrimp, crab and fish species.

Consequences

If delta areas are not protected with mangroves, there will be the threat of silt, Prof. Babu says. It is the main source of income for shore-line communities like fishermen. The threats to mangroves include land reclamation for construction and industrial activities, domestic pollution, dumping of debris and waste, deforestation for fuel food and over harvesting marine wealth.

If, for example, 100 acres of mangroves are destroyed for any purpose, plantation should be taken up on 200 acres. This is all the more important in view of the possibility of coming up of many industries along the coast, he says. “Unless restoration of degraded mangrove forests becomes a community movement, we will lose precious mangrove areas, leading to enhanced vulnerability to coastal storms and cyclones and loss of opportunity to sustainable livelihoods” – this warning by reputed agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan is worth mentioning here.

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