West Bengal government announces a ‘mangrove cell’
On the occasion of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on Wednesday, West Bengal, which is home to nearly 40% of the mangrove forests in India, announced the establishment of a “mangrove cell” in the State.
What are Mangrove forests?
Mangroves are distinctive and extraordinarily productive ecosystems that can be found along tropical and subtropical coasts. Their intertidal zones, where land and water converge, are home to a complex network of salt-tolerant trees, shrubs, and other types of plants. The biodiversity along the shore depends on these ecosystems, which also provide various ecological and socioeconomic advantages.
What are the features of the Mangrove forests ?
- Salt Tolerance :Mangroves are tolerant of salt and have evolved to prosper in salty environments. They can absorb freshwater from their surroundings by filtering out excess salt through specialised glands on their leaves.
- Aerial Root systems:Many mangrove species have aerial root systems that aid in stabilising the plants in the soggy, muddy environment. Since the soil doesn’t contain enough oxygen, these roots also allow the trees to absorb oxygen.
- Protective Barrier:Mangroves serve as a protective barrier in nature against storm surges, tidal waves, and coastal erosion. Their substantial root systems absorb wave energy and lessen the effects of severe weather, safeguarding inland towns and infrastructure.
- Biodiversity Hotspots:Mangroves are a haven for a variety of plant and animal species, making them hotspots for biodiversity. They contribute to fisheries and local economies by acting as crucial nascent homes for a variety of fish and crustaceans.
- Carbon Storage: Mangrove forests are very good at capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Their abundant flora and slow rates of breakdown result in significant carbon storage, which helps moderate global warming.
- Water Filtration: Before the water enters the open sea, mangroves operate as natural water filters, capturing and eliminating pollutants. This raises the standard of the water and improves marine ecosystems.
Where are these mangroves found in India?
- West Bengal’s Sundarbans is home to India’s largest mangrove forest, which it shares with Bangladesh. It is situated in the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river delta. The Royal Bengal Tiger is among the abundant wildlife that makes this area noteworthy.
- Odisha’s Bhitarkanika Mangrove Forest is renowned for its estuary crocodiles and a wide variety of bird species.Mangroves along the Mahanadi River delta in Odisha are known as the Mahanadi Mangroves.
- Godavari-Krishna Mangroves, Andhra Pradesh are located along India’s eastern coast in the deltas of the Godavari and Krishna rivers.
- Tamil Nadu’s Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is renowned for its enormous mangrove vegetation and network of interconnecting waterways.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ mangrove forests can be found in a number of locations, which adds to the islands’ distinctive biodiversity.
- The Lakshadweep Islands’ mangrove environments can be found along several of its coastlines.
What are the threats faced by mangroves?
- Deforestation:Mangrove forests are being destroyed to make way for logging, agriculture, aquaculture, and urban development. Loss of habitat and disruption of the ecosystem functions that mangroves supply result from this damage.
- Pollution: Both plant and animal life can be negatively impacted by pollution, which can be caused by urban garbage, industrial runoff, and agriculture.
- Climate Change: Mangrove habitats and the communities that depend on them are at serious risk from rising sea levels and storm frequency and intensity brought on by climate change.
- Expansion of Aquaculture: Mangroves may be destroyed and their natural habitats turned into man-made ponds as a result of increased prawn and fish farming.
What is the way forward to protect these areas?
- Establishing Protected Areas: To stop habitat loss and deforestation, set aside and administer protected areas exclusively for mangroves. Clear rules and enforcement should be in place in these regions to stop unlawful operations like logging, agricultural expansion, and aquaculture development.
- Community involvement: Involve neighbourhood groups in attempts to conserve mangroves. Their assistance and participation can play a critical role in defending these ecosystems against invasion and unlawful activity.
- Sustainable Resource management :To ensure the long-term wellbeing of mangrove ecosystems, promote sustainable harvesting methods for resources like fish and timber. Mangroves will be able to regrow and keep delivering vital functions if sustainable practises are used.
- Awarness and Education:Raising awareness of the value of mangroves and the risks they confront among the neighbourhood residents, tourists, and policymakers. Better understanding and appreciation can result from education, which can have a good impact on behaviour.
- Enforcement of Environment Laws:Strengthen the enforcement of current environmental laws and rules in order to stop illicit activities that endanger mangrove ecosystems. This involves keeping an eye out for violations and taking appropriate action.
- Eco-Tourism: Encourage ethical eco-tourism that benefits nearby communities without endangering the mangroves. Tourism that is managed and environmentally responsible can encourage the preservation of these ecosystems.