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Official Indifference Led To Mangrove Destruction  
Source:   Times Of India City   : Ahmedabad Published On   03-11-2009  


A high-level Gujarat government report, submitted to the World Bank, has admitted of policy indifference towards coastal ecosystem as the main reason for massive damage to mangroves, which till 1960 were the natural protection wall against salinity ingress along the state’s 1,600 km long coastline. The report has been prepared by WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy Services), a flagship PSU of the Union ministry of water resources, for the state forest and environment department.

The four-volume report talks of “increasing government control of natural resources” leading to local communities losing interest in mangrove protection, “diversion of mangrove lands for other uses like salt-pans, industries, ports”, and “inadequate knowledge regarding coastal and marine water monitoring” with Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).

Pointing to a vegetation map prepared by French Institute of Pondicherry showing dense mangrove forests at Kandla, southern coast of Gulf of Kutch and western coast of the Gulf of Khambhat in 1960, the report says, depletion reaching 397 sq km in 1991, and though there was regeneration e between 1993 and 1999, when reaching 1,031 sq km, things stagnated later, even worsened. In 2001, mangrove cover was 911 sq km, in 2003 it was 960 sq km, and today it is 938 sq km.

Wanting World Bank to fund Rs 250 crore for mangrove regeneration in 350 sq km in the Gulf of Kutch as part of coastal zone management programme, the report regrets how state control of natural resources broke down local traditions and customs for the proper stewardship of natural resources “leading to the classic situation of tragedy of commons.”

The result has been, “varied human activities like run off 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” pose “major threats to the delicate marine environment.”

Further, “due to major refineries established on coastline, especially Gulf of Kutch, the ship and heavy vessel traffic has increased in the gulf. Accidental oil spills from various vessels ferrying in Gulf of Kutch is a matter of serious concern as a potential threat to the coastal flora and fauna. Destructive fishing practices using chemicals and pesticides like DDT have caused damage to marine ecosystem.”


To deal with the situation, the GPCB does not have necessary infrastructure or expertise. It has five coastal laboratories, of which only two are look after the most vulnerable area of the Gulf of Kutch. It has 90 engineers and 145 scientists, but there is big gap to deal with the pace at which the work load is increasing. Limited staff has been constrained with ever emerging need of training and skill. Limited office space, lab space, infrastructure, logistics and quick communication system goes hand in hand with “lack of motivation and dedication.”


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