MANGROVE AFFORESTATION

Although there is mention of mangrove plantations being carried out in Kutch in the first 5-year plan period (1951-1956), the concerted efforts at mangrove afforestation may be considered to have started in 1983 by the management of the MNP with plantation of 7 ha mangrove area. The foresters at MNP experimented and evolved technology for mangrove plantation. The success enthused the field foresters. The effort increased in geometrical progression and spread to other potential mangrove areas.

The mangrove forest area reported by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) for various years beginning in 1987 depicts this resurgence. The mangrove cover increased from an estimated 427 km2 in 1987 to 1140 km2 in 2017, over two-and-a-half-fold increase. It may also be observed that significant and consistent increase, over time is recorded in Gujarat state only. The mangrove-cover increase in India was reported at about 700 km2 is almost wholly accounted for by Gujarat state.

Early mangrove plantations were largely carried out using poly pot raised Avicetmia spp. Foresters experimented and innovated to develop methods of planting with seed sowing and added Rhizopliora mucaronta and Ceriops tagal in their afforestation program. The program of mangrove afforestation was extended to Kutch. It needed the effort to standardize seed collection time for these species and method and tune for sowing in the field and for raising seedlings. Changing soil erosion/deposition pattern, algae deposition to the extent of strangulating the new recruits and inaccessibility and deep mud presented difficulties in raising plantations. Soil erosion and algae occasionally resulted in complete failure too.

Raised bed with the sowing of about 20 propagules to afford protection to central recruits in the raised bed from soil erosion and algae strangulation was innovated with success. Difficulties due to hostile site conditions and evolving methods, the program did not deter the efforts. The afforestation program continued vigorously with afforestation targets multiplying manifold reaching to as high as 10,000-12,000 ha. It extended to the Gulf of Cambay regions. The success in Khambhat region has been remarkable. Though young and low in height, the plantation grew with remarkable success in the region where the pioneering workers of the region state that they could hardly see any mangrove. One of the sarpanch, head of the democratic village body stated during one of the visits of the author that he could see only one tree of Cher (local name for Avicennia spp.). The coastal mudflats of Ahmedabad in areas nearing Bhavnagar though were not designated forest areas were afforested on the initiative of local authorities. The learning and adaptation were quick in making available the seeds in time. Cooperation with pioneers in MNP was intensive both for learning and seed sourcing. There was greater reliance on learning, adaptation, and cooperation to make seeds available timely. Innovative approaches, like cluster planting of seeds on raised beds, were used to stabilize moving in the early period of plantation establishment and protect young seedling from algae deposition using peripheral seedling as a protective cover.

All these efforts resulted in increasing mangrove area in estimated by the Forest Survey of India as stated in Table 10.1.

It may be interesting to see the mangrove areas at various points of time by regions rather than districts. The mangrove area in the Gulf of Cambay region more than doubled in the period 2001-2015 (Table 10.2). In the Gulf of Cambay, there are regions in Anand and Kheda districts where there was hardly any existence of mangrove that now support significant young mangrove trees.

EDUCATION AND AWARENESS

The afforestation efforts of potential mangrove areas, the coastal mudflats, were accompanied with program to raise awareness for mangroves and marine biodiversity. The Nature education program was widely used in mangrove and MNP areas to educate and raise awareness towards the mangroves and faunal marine diversity. It helped masses especially the young population to be aware of natural heritage, its role on the ecology of the region. This helped with increased support and commitment for conservation amongst local as well as civil communities. It also raised curiosity that leads to increased participation in research work on mangroves leading to synergy. The Nature Education program of the Gujarat Forest Department played a pivotal role in raising awareness and spreading scientific knowledge. The nature education camps conducted by the MNP organization, with youth being primary target, included various sections of the society with specially designed camps for target groups need special mention in spreading message and information that lead to concern and support of civil society and local communities for conservation of mangrove and corals that were unknown to common people. Gujarat Ecology Commission, GEER Foundation, and forest department officials of coastal regions of Gujarat and Gujarat Ecology Society too contributed significantly in making the message reach all the sections of society. The results bear evidence to the conservation technique created by these efforts.

TABLE 10.1 Mangrove Cover in States of India (Area in km2).

Year

Andhra

Pradesh

Gujarat

Maharashtra

Odisha

Tamil

Nadu

West

Bengal

A&N

Islands

Others

Total

1987

495

427

140

199

23

2076

686

0

4046

1989

405

412

114

192

47

2109

973

3

4255

1991

399

397

113

195

47

2119

971

3

4244

1993

378

419

155

195

21

2119

966

3

4256

1995

383

689

155

195

21

2119

966

5

4533

1997

383

901

124

211

21

2123

966

8

4737

1999

397

1031

108

215

21

2125

966

8

4871

2001

333

911

118

219

23

2081

789

8

4482

2003

329

916

158

203

35

2120

658

29

4448

2005

354

991

186

217

36

2136

635

26

4581

2009

353

1046

186

221

39

2152

615

27

4639

2011

352

1058

186

222

39

2155

617

34

4663

2013

352

1103

186

213

39

2097

604

34

4628

2015

367

1107

222

231

47

2106

617

43

4740

2017

404

1140

304

243

49

2114

617

50

4921

Source: State of Forest Report series 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017.

TABLE 10.2 Mangrove Forest Area in Various Regions of Gujarat (area in kin2).

Year

Gulf of Kuteli

Gulf of Cambay

Other areas

Total

2001

849

61

1

911

2003

892

67

1

916

2005

859

76

1

991

2009

934

112

0

1046

2011

939

117

2

1058

2013

960

139

4

1103

2015

963

140

4

1107

2017

986

148

6

1140

Source: State of Forest Report series 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017.

RESEARCH AND SURVEY

Lack of information, data, and increased concern raised through an awareness program triggered research and survey of mangroves. Early efforts were aimed at assessment of resource and potential areas for mangrove afforestation. It included:

  • 1. assessment and mapping of mangrove cover in various regions of the state;
  • 2. mangrove biodiversity in different areas, the history, and the factors having impact on diversity and growth;
  • 3. growth pattern and rate;
  • 4. physiology of mangrove species occurring in Gujarat;
  • 5. assessment and mapping of potential mangrove areas;
  • 6. carbon sequestration by mangrove species;
  • 7. community dependence and role of community in making success of mangrove afforestation.

On each of these aspects, detailed studies were conducted with the state- supported Gujarat Ecological Research Foundation playing the pivotal role and Gujarat Ecology Society contributing significantly.

 
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