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India: MANGREEN - Mangrove Restauration & Ecology in Tamil Nadu

Partner: Organization for Marine Conservation Awareness and Research (OMCAR), Indien

Participants: The coastal people of Palk Bay in the state of Tamil Nadu

Ecology: Restoration of natural mangrove belt and its long-term environmentally sound use

Economy: Promotion of various alternative sources of income

Social: Strengthening the community through self-organization, training, infrastructure

Measures:

  • Setting up the local MANGREEN office
  • Collecting literature and additional expertise on methods of artificial mangrove reafforestation
  • Agreeing measures with the Tamil Nadu Department of Forestry and with representatives of the local population and other organisations
  • Carrying out education programmes in the villages of the region and in schools
  • Setting up accompanying working groups and holding workshops with various regional and local organisations
    Selecting and inspecting plantation and reafforestation areas
  • Collecting cuttings from natural mangrove forests, establishing small tree nurseries and transplanting the young plants
  • Documenting the ongoing work and restoration progress
    This project is also being supported by private donors. This has meant that extra plantings have already been carried out and the progress of the project has been significantly speeded up.

 

 

Mangreen project aims on reforestation of mangrove forests at the coast of Tamil Nadu in southern India through natural and artificial regeneration of degraded mangrove areas. Specific measures enhanced the spread of mangrove seedlings in areas with remnants of natural forests. In areas without natural recolonization the seedlings are planted by hand into the intertidal zone. This requires the selection of the appropriate mangrove species, the seasonal collection and domestication of seedlings as well.

 

A total number of Eleven mangrove restoration sites (Mangreen Site) in three villages, were established through this project. This covers about 15 acres. 80% of the mangrove seedlings in Mangreen project area have grown up more than the height of cattle grazing (5 feet). So, their upper canopy will not be affected by cattle grazing that decides how big the tree in future. Rest of 20% includes shorter mangroves that will be eaten by cattle, if the sites will not be fenced in future. In reality, the relationship between cattle and mangroves is necessary in food chain of this ecosystem, if there is no damage by human.

 

In the beginning of the project, we introduced Rhizophora sp., which is not a common mangrove species in Agni Estuary. The introduced Rhizophora sp., seedlings are showing good growth, some are more than 12 feet with a circumference of 6 feet (so we call them as trees now!). This mangrove species is good for growing on the edge of river bank that will prevent erosion and shelter for young marine fishes and crabs.

 

Thus, we established a mangrove seed bank of Rhizhophora apiculata and Avecennia marina through Mangreen project, exactly at the mouth of Agni and Ambuliar Estuaries which will produce millions of seeds. The seeds will be easily carried out by river flow into bay to spread the mangroves to other areas of Palk Bay. Forest Department declared all the coastal mangroves are coming under the protected area and the Coastal Regulation Act. So, Mangreen sites will be officially safe from huge industrial or urban development in future.

 

One of the key factors behind our project success is that we did our best to motivate youths in mangrove conservation. We started to teach “what are mangroves” in 2005. Now our volunteers are technically capable to measure each mangrove tree and its ecology. We intend to use their effort and manpower for future activities.

 

OMCAR strongly needs these Mangreen sites for further research, education and nonprofit consultancy to other regional NGOs. However, OMCAR will stop further extension of mangrove restoration sites and nursery production, as there will be no separate funding. Only three major Mangreen Sites will be managed (fenced) by OMCAR Foundation that will be used to demonstrate our mangrove education and research activities with Palk Bay Social and Information Centre (PBISC). The site management cost will be meeting out by spending small percentage of our future projects and visitors.

 

Coastal forests are natural shelter

When a tsunami hit the coasts of South-East Asia in December 2004, it swept away everything in its path. More than 200,000 people died as a result of the sea surge. In the midst of the disaster, the lucky ones were those on wooded coastlines, because the mangroves in particular slowed the momentum of the water. Mangroves are shrubs and trees up to 30 metres high of various plant families, with around 70 species that have adapted in special ways to conditions on the salty coastlines and brackish river estuaries.

 

 

But an estimated 50 percent of the original mangrove forests worldwide have been destroyed in recent decades. One of the main reasons is that the ecological and economic importance of these areas is underestimated. Traditionally, timber from the mangroves is used for fuel, building materials or tanning agents. However, the removal of comparatively small quantities of wood by the coastal populations did not endanger the stock of mangroves. It was the large-scale destruction caused by the conversion to building land, rice and coconut plantations and the establishment of shrimp farms that dramatically exacerbated the situation.

 

However, when the forest goes, so does the natural shelterbelt against storms, flood waves, flooding and coastal erosion. What is more, a large number of economically important fish species depend on the mangroves for spawning grounds and shelter and it's not just these fish populations that see the basis of their existence removed when the mangroves are destroyed - the same can be said for the coastal population whose nets remain empty.

 

Against the background of noticeable damage, many regions are working on the reafforestation (rehabilitation) of the mangrove forests with varying degrees of intensity. However, restoring a near-natural state is time-consuming, because only a strong, branching root network can really perform the full filter and protective function. In addition, monocultures need to be avoided in order to prevent serious pest infestation, maintain biodiversity and enable versatile use by humans again in the future. Rehabilitation projects must therefore be well planned to ensure lasting success.

 

As well as efforts to restore the mangroves, it is particularly important that future depletion is prevented, being replaced by sustainable use through long-term ecologically sound management. Social and economic factors are often decisive for the long-term success of a rehabilitation project. For instance, it is essential to involve the local population in the process right from the start, as well as political decision-makers and regional planners, and to accompany the switch to sustainable development with e.g. special education and information programmes.

 

In many areas it is impossible to avoid using the productive and sensitive forests because the lagoons and shallow water occupied by mangroves form the basis of many villages in tropical coastal areas. In future therefore, the restoration of this habitat and its sustainable use through integrated management will be of particular importance.

 

The Region

Where the mangroves have completely disappeared it is not easy for the fishermen filling their nets.

The original mangrove forests along the Indian coastline have almost completely disappeared as a result of logging. This is the case on the coastline of Tamil Nadu - the "land of temples" - in Southern India, an area that has also been severely affected by the Sumatra tsunami. Mangroves offer natural protection against the force of sea surges, and coasts with intact mangrove forests suffered far less destruction when the tsunami hit.

 

In Keezhathottam on the Agni River, large areas are to be replanted with native mangrove species in a project headed by certified biologist Vedharajan Balaji. Today in the south, only around 700 ha of the original 6000 ha of mangrove forests remain. A first area for a mangrove tree nursery has now been identified at Palk Bay. An information centre is currently being set up and a night school is teaching people about the project's aims and opportunities.

 

The response from the local population has been very positive from the start. Like everywhere where mangroves have been forced to give way to urban development, agriculture or shrimp farms, when the mangroves disappeared in Tamil Nadu, so too did the stocks of edible fish on which the coastal population lives, or else they were severely depleted.

 

For the local population, the reafforestation of the mangroves and the recreation of a functioning ecosystem are linked to the hope of long-term coastal protection and securing one of their major food sources.

 

The Planning

The project is being carried out in close collaboration with the government administration and Annamalai University.

 

 

 

 

Project partner:

Dr.Vedharajan Balaji

OMCAR Foundation

69, Vendakottai Road

Pattukkottai - 614601

Tamil Nadu, India

www.omcar.org

 

Project reports:

Mangreen June 2006

Mangreen July 2007

Mangreen January 2008

Mangreen January 2009

 

LF-Explorer

Mangroves – masters of survival on salty ground

 

WWW:

OMCAR.ORG

MANGREEN at Flickr.com

Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula. The Palk Bay lies between the Tamil Nadu state and the island nation of Sri Lanka.