FEB 2018  

Mangroves are salt-tolerant flowering tropical plants that are largely restricted to tropical coastlines. Mangrove forests are among the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. They provide habitat and food source to a wide variety of living organisms. The intricate root system of mangroves also makes these forests attractive to fish and other organisms seeking food and shelter from predators. This helps replenish fishery stocks and support fishery-based livelihoods. Loss in mangrove forests reduces marine biodiversity, as well as the fishery resources and has an adverse impact on the people dependent on them for their livelihoods.

This month, our cover story titled, 'Conservation of Mangrove Forests for Fighting Coastal Disasters and Carbon Emissions' highlights that mangrove plantations are not just a wall against coastal disasters, but also hold socio-economic importance for people dependent on them for their livelihood. Further, mangroves can absorb about 50 times more carbon as compared to other ecosystems, and can play a crucial role in mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change. In India, mangrove forests have a long history as biologically-rich regions. However, they have in the past decades been considered as wastelands, and large tracts of mangroves were rampantly destroyed, leading to massive decline in mangrove forests between 1980 and 2000.

Our cover story also discusses the role of mangroves as significant carbon sinks and as a bulwark against storms. However, their resilience is reducing due to the changes in temperature, carbon dioxide levels, precipitation, etc. Hence, the article points out that conserving mangroves has to be a priority for India's conservation programme. Unfortunately, people's unregulated land acquisition has pushed mangroves to the brink of extinction in some of our states. However, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, and other cyclones that have hit coastal regions in recent years have dramatically highlighted the protective role of mangroves, thus enabling the conservation of mangrove forests to rapidly gain importance.

The feature article this month discusses about the revisions in the draft 'Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) Notification 2017' and the implications of these revisions on coastal populations and livelihoods. The draft proposes that temporary tourism facilities, local housing, and infrastructure will be permitted beyond 50 m of the high tide line, which will apply to ecologically sensitive areas as well. In India, with its massive population, the implications can be particularly adverse. Several biodiversity hotspots in the country have already been badly affected by increasing pollution levels, with climate change exacerbating the damage. Fish-catch has been particularly affected along our coasts. In such a scenario, healthy oceans and coasts are necessary both for livelihoods and to combat the adverse effects of climate change.