Why are Mangroves important?
The 1650 km long coastline of Gujarat has 14 species of mangroves, which are commonly found, along both the Gulfs of Gujarat, namely Gulf of Kachchh and Gulf of Khambhat. Mangroves are salt tolerant plants and rich in biodiversity providing a habitat for hundreds of terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna; they are act as nurseries for a variety of fish, shell fish, crustaceans and molluscs.
Mangrove ecosystem is also considered as one of the most productive wetlands in the world on account of the large quantities of organic and inorganic nutrients released in the coastal water. Mangroves also arrest coastal erosion and offer protect from tidal storms. Mangroves function as a stabilizer of sediment on shoreline.
Threats to Mangroves
The threats to the mangrove ecosystem could be broadly grouped into two: Natural and Anthropogenic. These factors may affect the system as a whole or any one entity within the system, etc. The natural threats include: Climatic changes, Cyclones and Physical processes. Diseases, deterioration, pollution, grazing, agriculture, aquaculture and human encroachment (including reclamation), etc., are considered as the anthropogenic threats to the ecosystem.
Efforts to conserve Mangroves through Community Participation for a better future
Gulf of Kachchh is a significant location identified by Government of India for mangrove conservation. Taking this as a guiding force, GEC took up the initiative to restore and regenerate mangroves along the coast of Gujarat. With experience, it was learnt that to sustain regeneration activities, community involvement was inevitable. Acting on this, GEC implemented many projects on Mangrove ecosystem regeneration through adopting a community based mangrove management approach. GEC has also been instrumental in taking the initiative of mangrove restoration activities with the help of Public Private Partnership (PPP). The role played by the private sector in restoring the mangroves along the coast is commendable. Mangrove restoration was scaled up with the support of leading business houses like Adani, LNG Petronet, Tata Power, Shell Gas etc.
Initiatives of mangrove regeneration continues
Mangroves are well known carbon absorbents, thus they hold the key to environmental protection in the future. Mangroves are also considered as nature’s best way to combat effects of global warming due to their high capacity for carbon sequestration.
GEC continues with mangrove regeneration and has included it as an integral part of its major projects: the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) and Green Action for National Dandi Heritage Initiative (GANDHI). Facilitating community based mangrove plantation is an integral component of the on-going ICZM project.
Initially 10 CBOs were formed with 2485 general body members who have planned, prepared and executed mangrove regeneration activities along with management of funds. Later on, the work was scaled up and formed eight more CBOs. With the initiation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP), Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) has been able to establish 160 more CBOs. At present, there are 178 such CBOs functional along the coast of Gujarat with a committed membership of over 23,000 stakeholders.