Challenges In Marine Biodiversity Conservation in India
[caption id="attachment_263724" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Village: Wayangani Block: Vengurla District : Sindhudurg State: Maharashtra Cou...
[caption id="attachment_263724" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Village: Wayangani Block: Vengurla District : Sindhudurg State: Maharashtra Country: India, 11th march 2014
A local heads into the sea to release newly hatched olive Ridley turtles into the ocean from Wayangani beach. 48 years old Suhas Toraskar mans a beach where Olive Ridley Turtles have laid eggs under the sand in Wayangani. Suhas has monitored the birth of more than 5000 turtles in his lifetime. He also rescues and releases turtles stuck in fishing nets back to the sea. At 15 he saw turtles coming out of a nest and he felt the wonder of nature but he also observed turtle eggs being consumed and the meat eaten by the locals. Later ha also had a vision where God asked him to save the turtles. He mans the beach day and night saving the turtles against poachers, dogs and other nature's threats. After doing a head count (when the turtles are born) the turtles are released into the water in the supervision of a forest guard.
Sindhudurg is home to two turtle species, which includes Green Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles. Turtles fall under Schedule – I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. However ghost fishing, degradation and habitat loss, poaching and climate change has pushed the species towards the brink of extinction across the globe. Thus efforts to conserve these species require sustained efforts and involvement of the local communities.
UNDP, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and financed by the Global Environment Facility, aims to mainstream biodiversity conservation into Sindhudurg coastal district’s production sectors. The aim is to generate awareness among local communities on biodiversity conservation amidst the threat of unsustainable fishing practices, rising pollution from fishing vessels and maritime traffic in the region.
UNDP India/2014/Prashanth Vishwanathan[/caption]
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.