Mangroves ruined root and branch

 The Forest Department has submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife to protect the mangrove cover and include the local population in promotion of mangroves in Puducherry. The move has come following extensive damage to the mangroves in the region.

With the new proposal, the Forest Department will attempt to re-plant the mangroves and with the cooperation of the locals, they can ensure that the mangroves will thrive, Conservator of Forests A. Anil Kumar told The Hindu.

While one of the main reasons for mangrove damage and destruction is untreated sewage water being released into the mangroves, there are several other problems. When the boats were being cleared after the cyclone Thane backhoe loaders were used and an entire stretch of mangroves was pulled out from the roots, he said.

Much of the destruction of the mangroves is in the Ariyankuppam and the Thengathittu areas, he said.

In the Cyclone Thane, around 90 per cent of the mangrove trees suffered damage, however as long as they are not completely uprooted, the trees had a chance to re-grow, he said.

Many people cut down mangrove trees for firewood, which is a crime. In addition, fishermen cut down the trees and put them in the middle of the sea in order to create a mini lagoon that will attract fish to the area, according to one of the officials of the Forest Department.

All the mangroves in Puducherry were planted by the Forest Department from 1994 onwards with the help of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Annamalai University. Around 100 acres of land in Karaikal and Puducherry now had mangrove forests, with eight species of mangroves, former Conservator of Forests P. Devaraj told The Hindu.

In Puducherry, mangroves can be found in the Veerampattinam, Moorthikuppam Pudukuppam and Nalavadu. Negligence of the people and a lack of understanding of the importance of mangroves has led to the problem of destruction, he said.

Mangrove species are protected under the Wildlife Act and any cutting or destruction can be penalised by the Department. All mangroves, whether in Government land or private land, come under the direct protection of the Forest Department and people who damage them can be imprisoned and penalised up to Rs. 25,000.

Importance of Mangroves

Mangroves, like corals, are known as land builders. They prevent erosion of soil in the coastal areas. They are also the first line of defence against natural disasters like tsunamis and cyclones and act like a shelter belt, Mr. Devaraj said.

They also play an active role in mitigation of global warming and behave just like evergreen forests in that respect, he said.

Even in the Cyclone Thane, the mangroves prevented the boats from being thrown further away from shore and being further damaged, he said.