In Sundarbans, a new shrimp farming initiative offers hope for mangrove restoration.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About SAIME Initiative
- Significance of the Sundarbans Delta
- Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance
About SAIME Initiative
- Under Sustainable Aquaculture In Mangrove Ecosystem (SAIME) initiative, farmers have taken up cultivation of shrimp at 30 hectares in West Bengal.
- They are also rebuilding mangroves.
- NGOs Naturland, Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS), Global Nature Fund (GNF), and Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) are spearheading the community-based effort of sustainable shrimp cultivation, which was launched in 2019.
- Shrimp farming and the mangrove ecosystem are intertwined, yet when fisheries were expanded inward, the mangrove ecosystem was left out.
- One of the main industries in the Sundarbans, a complex system of rivers and low-lying islands that experience twice-daily tide surges, is fishing, notably shrimp farming.
- About 15,000 to 20,000 hectares of India’s unique ecology are used for shrimp farming.
Significance of the Sundarbans Delta
- The Sundarbans, located on the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river deltas on the Bay of Bengal, are home to the biggest mangrove forests in the world.
- Many animal species have their natural homes in the Sundarbans, where a huge number of species have been observed to feed, breed, and find shelter.
- Numerous rare and threatened wildlife species, including the estuary crocodile, water monitor lizard, Gangetic dolphin, and olive ridley turtle, call this region home.
- 40% of Sundarbans lies in India and the rest in Bangladesh. Sundarbans was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 (India) and 1997 (Bangladesh).
- In January 2019, India’s Sundarbans Wetland was designated by the Ramsar Convention as a “Wetland of International Importance.”
Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance
- Mangrove forests comprise the interface between wetlands and sea grass meadows along a vast expanse of tropical shorelines all over the world.
- They also occur along bays, estuaries or mouths of rivers by these shores.
- Mangroves are present worldwide on various shorelines between approximately 25°N and 25°S latitude.
- Mangrove forests are one of the greatest sources of biodiversity on this planet.
- They have a rich underwater component, a surface component and an aerial component.
- Mangrove communities include fish, insects, shellfish, birds of many species, saltwater crocodiles, monkeys, algae and fungi.
- Many organisms, especially fish, spend their early years in the protection of the mangroves and their intricate below and above-ground root systems.
How are Mangrove Forests Useful?
- Mangroves, along with sea grasses and wetlands, comprise the ‘blue carbon’ ecosystem of stored carbon in sediments along many tropical and subtropical coastal zones.
- Their complex aerial and submerged root systems moderate current flows and the canopies moderate wind flow — they are the interface between the wetlands and sea grass communities for the continental flow of water and solutes into the ecosystem.
- Mangroves also supply fuelwood and other forest products, like food and medicine, for people.
- And, in addition to the nutrition they give us, mangroves protect us — along with other trees and forests, mangroves sequester a sizeable amount of carbon to offset greenhouse gas emissions created by human activities.
- When mangrove trees die of natural causes, they generally fall into the sea and the carbon may be stored in the sediment on the sea floor for long periods of time.
Types of Mangrove Trees
- The term ‘mangrove’ is used to refer to a whole community of trees and shrubs, which are not closely related.
- The Mangrove trees have all adapted to harsh coastal environments of saline, brackish waters and low oxygen conditions.
- There are over 100 species of trees and shrubs designated as mangroves.
- However, there are three classic groups of mangroves — the red mangroves (Rhizophoraceae), the black mangroves (Acanthaceae) and the white mangroves (Combretaceae).
The current state of the mangroves
- South Asia houses some of the most extensive areas of mangroves globally, while Indonesia hosts one-fifth of the overall amount.
- India holds around 3 percent of South Asia’s mangrove population.
- Besides the Sundarbans in West Bengal, the Andamans region, the Kachchh and Jamnagar areas in Gujarat too have substantial mangrove cover.
- However, infrastructure projects — industrial expansion and building of roads and railways, and natural processes — shifting coastlines, coastal erosion and storms, have resulted in a significant decrease in mangrove habitats.
- Between 2010 and 2020, around 600 sq km of mangroves were lost of which more than 62% was due to direct human impacts, the Global Mangrove Alliance said in its 2022 report.
-Source: Indian Express