Extending for about 8000 km, the Indian coastline offers a diverse picture in terms of the lives it sustains and the opportunities it offers. With nearly 25% of India’s population residing in both western and eastern coastal areas, and among them about 340 communities having their primary occupation as inland and marine fisheries, the region demands intensive focus in terms of its conservation and sustainability.
It is estimated that the Indian Ocean has one of the richest concentration of biodiversity in the world, with about 2,374 km of coral reefs, 700,000 hectares of mangrove cover, over 2,500 species of fish, eight species of sea turtles etc. Yet the efforts towards its conservation remain par below the required scale. Rather, it is the humungous development prospects that hijacks the whole emphasis needed towards the conservation.
Reckless resource exploitation for setting up of ports, shipyards, power plants, tourist facilities, sports, aquaculture and the like spells doom for the marine areas. Mangrove and coastal forests clearance, coastal urbanization and industrialization, development of transport infrastructure, conversion to agriculture and aquaculture, coral mining for building materials in unplanned and unregulated manner often wreck havocs.
The situation is aggravated by the excessive discharge of pollutants, which could easily reduce the water quality, affect the existing balance of the aquatic ecosystem. Oil spills, soil erosion and noise pollution along the coast can lead to the extinction of breeds and bring up some harmful foreign species.
Ineffective fisheries management combined with over exploitation of marine resources is another area that requires the immediate attention of the conservationists and official bodies. Destructive fishing practices, mangrove destruction/conversion, poaching of turtles and eggs etc. can adversely impact the aquatic/ marine food chain.
When these ill effects depleting marine biodiversity is read along with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change, there is need towards adopting proactive methods like enhanced capacity building and effective monitoring of resources. Community participation can be harnessed for real time and reliable data updates along with creating awareness via ICT. Last but not the least, the judicious and stringent implementation of laws related to CRZ, beholding environmental empathy while giving project approvals and a far sighted sustainability approach in policies can offer a better future to our coasts.