Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mangrove forests of Gujarat degraded due to construction of dams upstream, industrialisation: Official site

By Our Representative
A Gujarat government website has said that the state has witnessed “considerable degradation of the mangroves”, and big dams in the upstream are one of the major reasons behind this. The website, http://www.geciczmp.com/, owned by the state forest department’s Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, being implemented by the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), has explained that “reduction in natural regeneration and death of the rich mangroves” has taken place “because of decreased influx of fresh water into the mangrove areas due to construction of dams, both small and big, in upstream areas.”
The result has been that Gujarat’s sea coast has become “highly saline” and “in terms of water and soil salinity” there is considerable loss to “biodiversity of mangroves along the coast.” It adds, other reasons for the degradation of mangroves in Gujarat include factors like “the dependency of the local and nomadic pastoralist communities on the mangroves for fodder and fuel, diversion of mangrove areas to industries, salt pans, and construction of ports and jetties.”
The website says, “1600 km long coastline of Gujarat was once dotted with mangroves, along the Gulfs of Kutch and Khambhat and along the south Gujarat coastline. These mangroves were not only protecting the coastal areas from vagaries of cyclones and erosion, but were also acting as green barriers against saline breeze. In addition, they were providing rich breeding grounds for the marine fisheries.”
“Unfortunately most of these mangroves, except in the Marine National Park and Kori Creek areas in Gulf of Kutch, have been severely degraded with disastrous consequences”, the website points out, adding, “Most of these mangrove forests have largely been degraded over the years. The degradation has been both in terms of loss of mangroves and also loss of species, with Avicennia marina (a poor quality mangrove) virtually replacing all other species of mangroves.”
The website rolls out figures to prove its point, “The total mangrove cover in the state at present is about 938 sq. km, which on the face of it is quite impressive. But most of these mangroves are located only in Kutch and Jamnagar districts, 727 and 141 sq. km respectively, which account for more than 90% of the state’s mangroves.”
It adds, “And here, too, only one place – Kori Creek – situated at the northwestern tip of the Gulf, accounts for 68% (643.3 sq. km) of the state’s mangrove cover. This is an isolated patch of natural mangroves, which has survived all these years as it is very far from any human habitation and directly influenced by the Indus delta.”
The website says, “In the past, the entire coastline from Okha to Navlakhi and Surajbari, i.e. the southern coast of Gulf of Kachchh in the Jamnagar and Rajkot districts, was covered with thick mangrove forests. Now one finds only isolated patches of sparse mangroves, restricted mainly to the various bets (islands) which form the Marine National Park and Sanctuary.”
It adds, “Most of the coastal mudflats in this region are devoid of any vegetation. In the Gulf of Khambhat, the area has suffered severe degradation in a short span of 25-30 years, with a rapid rate of 32.3 sq. km per decade at places.”
It further says, “Mangroves were present even 30 years ago near villages Sigam, Zamdi, Malpore and Nada. Presently, only Nada has some sparse and scrubby mangroves. The patchy records of mangrove cover by various agencies during the period from 1875 to 1983 show that there was a marked decline in the mangrove cover from 438 sq km to 13 sq km in most parts of the Gulf of Khambhat.”
The website says, “Desertification, seawater intrusion and extent of saline soils are also on the increase every year. There has been a progressive decrease in the net cropped area registering a negative growth of around. Similarly, ground water situation is grim with many coastal talukas of Kutch district falling in grey and dark categories. However ground water accounts for 67% of the source of irrigation. There are no perennial rivers in Kutch district. Low annual rainfall, high velocity winds and extreme temperatures result in high rates of evapotranspiration.”
The website underlines, “Although the population density is less, many of the coastal communities, particularly the fishermen and Maldharis, are directly or indirectly dependent on the mangroves for the sustenance of their livelihood. However, large mangrove areas in this region have been affected by port development activities, notably at Kandla and Mundra.”
It adds, “Varied human activities like run offs and sedimentation from development activities, eutrophication from sewage and agriculture, physical impact of maritime activities, dredging, destructive fishing practices, pollution from industrial sources, and oil refineries etc. are some of the major threats to the fragile marine environment.”
Reminding that “Gujarat is one of the most industrialized states in India”, the website says, “The major industries located around Gulf of Kutch include cement, chemicals, petroleum and oil refineries, shipping, power plants, fertilizers, fishing, etc. The increasing untreated effluents waste discharged into the marine environment severely hamper the marine flora and fauna.”
It adds, “Due to major refineries established on the coastline along the Gulf of Kutch, ship and heavy vessel traffic has also increased in the area. Accidental oil spills from various vessels ferrying in Gulf of Kutch is a matter of serious concern as it may also be a potential threat to the coastal flora and fauna.”

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