Wednesday, August 03, 2016

National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP), Ramsar Convention on Wetland and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON)


Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water. Once treated as transitional habitats or seral stages in succession from open water to land, the wetlands are now considered to be distinct ecosystems with specific ecological characteristics, functions and values.

According to most widespread definition wetlands are defined as: "lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water".
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands define wetlands as: "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres".
Wetlands, natural and manmade, freshwater or brackish, provide numerous ecological services. The density of birds, in particular, is an accurate indication of the ecological health of a particular wetland. However, unsustainable use of wetland without reckoning of their assimilative capacity constitutes major threat to the conservation and management of these vital biodiversity rich areas.

1. National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)

Government of India opertionalized National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) in closed collaboration with concerned State Government during the year 1985/86. Under the programme 115 wetlands (Table 1) have been identified till now by the Ministry which requires urgent conservation and management initiatives.

Aim of the Scheme

Conservation and wise use of wetlands in the country so as to prevent their further degradation.

Objectives of the Scheme

The scheme was initiated with the following objectives:-
  • to lay down policy guidelines for conservation and management of wetlands in the country;
  • to undertake intensive conservation measures in priority wetlands;
  • to monitor implementation of the programme; and
  • to prepare an inventory of Indian wetlands.

 Proposed funding pattern under the Scheme

Financial assistance under NWCP is provided for two components i.e. Management Action Plan (MAP) and Research Projects. Under the Scheme, 100% assistance is provided for activities. Conservation and management of wetlands is primarily vested with the State/UTs, who are in physical possession of the area. After identification of wetlands under the Scheme, the State/UTs are to submit long-term comprehensive Management Action Plans (MAPs) for a period of 3-5 years, preferably 5 years, coinciding with the Plan period.

The State Governments are advised to define objectives taking into consideration factors responsible for degradation of the wetland. The MAP should also have short-term objectives to cater to immediate problems confronting wetlands and to go in for immediate rectification measures. The comprehensive MAP should be based on integrated and multi-disciplinary approach. These are scrutinized and approved by the Central Government with such changes as necessary in accordance with the Rules, procedures, and priorities of the particular area and availability of funds. After the approval of MAP, funds are released annually to the State/UTs as per Annual Plan of Operation (APOs) submitted to the Central Government.

Under the Scheme, Ministry also sponsor multidisciplinary research projects by academic/ managerial/ research institutions on various aspects of wetland conservation to supplement execution of MAP in more realistic manner.

2. Ramsar Convention on Wetland

The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 158 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1758 wetland sites, totaling 161 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Ramsar Convention is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, in part due to a lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods and services. Governments that join the Convention are expressing their willingness to make a commitment to helping to reverse that history of wetland loss and degradation.

In addition, many wetlands are international systems lying across the boundaries of two or more countries, or are part of river basins that include more than one country. The health of these and other wetlands is dependent upon the quality and quantity of the transboundary water supply from rivers, streams, lakes, or underground aquifers. This requires framework for international discussion and cooperation toward mutual benefits. The text of the Convention and other details can be accessed on Ramsar Convention's website (

Major obligations of countries which are party to the Convention are:
  • Designate wetlands for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
  • Promote, as far as possible, the wise use of wetlands in their territory.
  • Promote international cooperation especially with regard to transboundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared species.
  • Create wetland reserves.

Montreux Record

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation 4.8 of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990). Resolution 5.4 of the Conference (1993) determined that the Montreux Record should be employed to identify priority sites for positive national and international conservation attention. Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie. As of September 2007, 59 Ramsar sites are present in the Montreux Record 23 sites which had been listed on the Montreux Record have since been removed from it

World Wetland Day

World Wetlands Day which is celebrated each year on 2 February, marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time on February 2, 1997, on the 16th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention. Each year since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.

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India is a party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity signed at Rio de Janeiro on the 5th day of June, 1992 which came into force on the 29th December, 1993. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), the first international regulatory framework for safe transfer, handling and use of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) was negotiated under the aegis of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The protocol was adopted on 29th January 2000.  With Palau acceding to the Protocol, the required number of 50 instruments of ratification /accession /approval /acceptance by countries was reached in May 2003. The Protocol entered into force on 11 September 2003.  Currently 169 countries are Parties to the Protocol.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), the first international regulatory framework for safe transfer, handling and use of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) was negotiated under the aegis of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The protocol was adopted on 29th January 2000.  With Palau acceding to the Protocol, the required number of 50 instruments of ratification /accession /approval /acceptance by countries was reached in May 2003. The Protocol entered into force on 11 September 2003.  Currently 169 countries are Parties to the Protocol.

The objective of the Protocol is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements.

The Protocol promotes biosafety by establishing rules and procedures for the safe transfer, handling, and use of LMOs. It includes Advance Informed Agreement (AIA) procedures for imports of LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment, and also incorporates the precautionary approach, and mechanisms for risk assessment and risk management. The Protocol establishes a Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) to facilitate information exchange, and contains provisions on capacity building and financial resources, with special attention to developing countries and those without domestic regulatory systems The Protocol attempts to reconcile the respective needs of trade and environmental protection in the light of rapidly growing biotechnology industry. The Protocol addresses the obligations of Parties in relation to the transboundary movements of LMOs to and from non-Parties to the Protocol.

September 11, 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of the Biosafety Protocol. To commemorate the achievements during this period, celebrations were held all over the world. The theme for the anniversary was “10 Years of Promoting Safety in the Use of Biotechnology”.  The Secretariat to CBD has developed a series of short video clips from representatives of Parties and relevant organizations highlighting some of the successes and lessons learned with regard to the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol. The video clip and other information about the activities organized to celebrate the event can be accessed at:

The main function of the governing body of the Protocol known as the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention serving as the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Protocol i.e. COP-MOP  is to review the implementation of the Protocol and make decisions or provide necessary guidance to promote its effective operation. Till date seven meetings of COP-MOP have been convened. India hosted the sixth meeting at Hyderabad from 1-5th October 2012

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The National Mission for Green India (GIM)


The National Mission for Green India (GIM) is one of the eight Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures. It envisages a holistic view of greening and focuses on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass, preserving mangroves, wetlands, critical habitats etc. along with carbon sequestration as a co-benefit. This mission has adopted an integrated cross-sectoral approach as it will be implemented on both public as well as private lands with a key role of the local communities in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring.

Mission Goals

  1. To increase forest/tree cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of forest/tree cover on another 5 mha of forest/non-forest lands;
  2. To improve/enhance eco-system services like carbon sequestration and storage (in forests and other ecosystems), hydrological services and biodiversity; along with provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces (NTFPs); and
  3. To increase forest based livelihood income of about 3 million households.


Green India Mission hinges upon convergence with related Missions of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, other complementary National Mission Programmes and schemes for better coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas in a holistic and sustainable manner. The coherent approach involving contribution from converging partners intends to saturate the landscapes with essential need-based interventions at a faster pace. Also the convergence aims at optimizing efficient use of resources and avoidance of contrast activities which can disturb the balance in the ecosystem due to lack of coordination between different schemes.

As a first step towards translation of these efforts into action, Green India mission has issued the Convergence Guidelines of GIM with MNREGS. Efforts are on to finalize convergence guidelines with other complimentary schemes to set out the approach for coordination at field level.

Convergence guidelines of GIM with CAMPA have been framed to ensure a synergized approach which is required to address the challenges being faced in environment, forest and wildlife sector thereby contributing to ecological security in the context of climate change.

Current Affairs:

Union Environment Ministry has approved annual plans of National Mission for Green India (GIM) of four states viz. Kerala, Mizoram, Manipur and Jharkhand. 

In this regard, National Executive Council (NEC) has approved the Perspective Plans (PP) and Annual Plan of Operations (APOs) of GIM submitted by 4 states. 

Key facts 

  1. The approval has been granted for alternative energy devices such as biogas, LPG, solar devices, biomass-based systems and improved stoves. 
  2. These devices in turn will help to reduce pressure on forests and provide carbon emission benefits, along with health and other associated benefits.
  3. It will cover around 27,032 households from these 4 states for financial year 2015-16.
  4. Financial support: PP of all four states has total financial outlay of 90,202.68 lakh rupees for a plan period of five to ten years. While, APOs of 11,195.32 lakh rupees for same period.
  5. Forest and non-forest area: It will be taken up in the 4 states under GIM during the total plan period will be 1, 08,335 hectares. Out of it, 81,939 hectares will help in improving the density of existing forests and 16, 396 hectares in new areas. 

Biodiversity: Coral reefs

Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of coral, which are marine invertebrate animals. The coral species that build coral reefs are known as hermatypic or"hard" corals because they extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies.

Each individual coral is referred to as a polyp. New coral polyps live on the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of their ancestors, adding their own exoskeleton to the existing coral structure. As the centuries pass, the coral reef slowly grows, one tiny exoskeleton at a time, until they become massive features of the submarine environment.

Corals are found all over the world's oceans, from the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska to warm tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea. The biggest coral reefs are found in the clear, shallow ocean waters of the tropics and subtropics where they grow quickly. The largest of these coral reef systems — the Great Barrier Reef of Australia — is more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) in length.

The lives of coral

There are hundreds of different species of coral, according to the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), a nonprofit environmental group. Coral have a dazzling array of shapes and colors, from round, folded brain corals that resemble a human brain to tall, elegant sea whips and sea fans that look like intricate, vibrantly colored trees or plants. [Photos: Stunning New Coral Species of Polynesia]

Corals belong to the phylum Cnidaria (pronounced ni-DAR-ee-uh), a group that includes jellyfish, anemones, Portuguese man o' war and other marine animals. Though each individual animal is referred to as a polyp, corals are often described as a colony of thousands of polyps.

Corals feed in two different ways: Some species are able to catch small sea life like fish and plankton by using the stinging tentacles on the outer edges of their bodies. Most corals, however, have a symbiotic (mutually rewarding) relationship with algae called zooxanthellae (pronounced zo-zan-THEL-ee), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These algae live inside the coral polyp's body and produce food for themselves and the polyp through photosynthesis. The polyps, in turn, provide a home and carbon dioxide for the algae. Additionally, the zooxanthellae provide the coral with their lively colors — most coral polyp bodies are clear and colorless.

Some coral species, such as brain coral, are hermaphrodites, producing both eggs and sperm at the same time. They reproduce in a mass coral spawning event that, in some species, occurs only once per year on a particular night.

Other species, such as elkhorn coral, are gonochoric, creating colonies composed of all males or all females. Among these coral colonies, all the polyps of one particular colony will produce only sperm; for reproduction, they rely on a neighboring colony that produces only eggs.

The world of coral reefs

Most of the substantial coral reefs found today are between 5,000 and 10,000 years old, according to CORAL. These are generally found in warm, clear, shallow waters where there's plenty of sunlight to nurture the algae that the coral rely on for food.

Coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor — all of them combined would equal an area of about 110,000 square miles (285,000 square kilometers), roughly the size of the state of Nevada. Nonetheless, they are among the most productive and diverse ecosystems on Earth.

About 25 percent of all known marine species rely on coral reefs for food, shelter and breeding. Sometimes referred to as "the rainforests of the sea" for their biodiversity, coral reefs are the primary habitat for more than 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral, and thousands of other plants and animals, according to CORAL.

And their lives are in imminent peril, according to experts.

Coral reefs under siege

Coral reefs are critical marine habitat on which many ocean species depend; additionally, they provide an estimated $30 billion annually in direct economic benefit to people worldwide though food, fisheries and tourism, according to the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University.

But coral reefs are imperiled by several threats. The increasing acidification of the ocean — caused when oceans absorb immense amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels — inhibits coral's ability to produce the calcium carbonate exoskeletons they rely on for shelter.
Water pollution, too, is wreaking havoc on coral reefs. Agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, oil and gasoline, sewage discharge and sediment loads from eroded landscapes damage the complex relationships that exist between the plants, coral and other animals that are part of the reef ecosystem.

As the temperatures of the world's oceans increase due to global warming, coral polyps expel the zooxanthellae they depend on for food. Once they are gone, the coral also loses its brilliant color, and all that can be seen is the white exoskeleton; this is referred to as coral bleaching. Coral colonies subject to bleaching usually die off, according to CORAL.

And fishing practices such as cyanide fishing (using cyanide to make fish easier to catch), "blast fishing" with explosives, and overfishing with trawlers can destroy a thousand-year-old coral reef in a few minutes.

"Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion," said Roger Bradbury, an ecologist at Australian National University in Canberra, in a New York Times opinion article. "Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it."

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Shale Gas

What is Shale Gas?

  1. Shale gas is natural gas formed from being trapped within shale formations.
  2. Shale gas—an “unconventional” source of methane, like coal-bed gas (in coal seams) and tight gas (trapped in rock formations)
  3. It is Colourless, odourless, lighter than air.
  4. In Europe shale gas isnot used because of green rules and limited property rights. But In America, use of Shale Gas has already started and In future, it will give a spur to the domestic manufacture of anything needing large amounts of energy.

What’re the Advantages of Gas as a source of Energy?

  1. Gas power stations are relatively cheap to build, beating nuclear power hands down in terms of capital costs, and in most cases they are also less expensive than renewables.
  2. A flexible fuel, capable of heating homes, fuelling industrial boilers and providing feedstock for the petrochemicals industry, where it is turned into plastics, fertiliser and other useful stuff.
  3. It is also making small but significant progress as a fuel for lorries and buses.
  4. Biggest advances have been in power generation: because it is cheaper to generate electricity from gas, and  the process releases up to 50% less carbon dioxide than does coal.

What’re the problems with Gas as a source of energy?

  1. It is difficult and expensive to transport.
  2. Because of those hefty transport costs, gas does not behave like a commodity. Only one-third of all gas is traded across borders, compared with two-thirds of oil.
  3. Gas has no global price.
  4. Gas prices in different parts of the world are set by quite different mechanisms, they vary wildly across the globe.
  5. Gas pipelines cost million of dollars a kilometre to build.
  6. alternative is to ship the gas in liquid form, as LNG. But projects to liquefy gas also require huge investments
  7. GK: Gazprom is Russia’s huge state-run gas producer and supplier of 25% of Europe’s gas.

Mangrove Ecology

Where do Mangroves occur

The richest mangrove communities occur in tropical and sub-tropical areas, i.e., between the 30°N and 30°S latitudes where the water temperature is greater than 24ÂșC in the warmest month, where the annual rainfall exceeds 1250mm and mountain ranges greater than 700m high are found close to the coast. Mangroves are found practically in almost all the continents, excepting Europe, the Arctic and Antarctic. Luxuriant patches of mangroves are found on all the other continents but the best mangroves are found in Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh - the Sunderbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world both in size as well as biodiversity

The total area of mangroves in India is about 6,740 sq. km, which is about 7% of the world's total area of mangroves. Of the total mangroves 80% are present along the east coast, mostly forming the Sunderbans, Bhitarkanika and the Andaman & Nicobar mangroves. The Gangetic Sunderbans is about 4,000 sq. km whereas Andaman & Nicobar is about 700 sq km. Besides, large rivers like Mahanadi, Krishna, Cauveri, Godavari also harbour major mangroves in their estuarine regions.

The remaining 20% mangroves are scattered on the west coast from Kutch to Kerala. The reason for such a restricted mangrove cover is the peculiar coastal structure and the nature of estuaries formed by the relatively small and non-perennial rivers except Narmada and Tapi.

How do they establish?

Under the right conditions like the formation of a mud-flat, growth of mangroves is initiated. Stabilization of mud-flats is a preliminary process in the establishment of mangroves. Pioneer plant species initiate this process. The roots of these plants help in binding the soil and also help the establishment of micro-organisms which further help in stabilizing the area. Stabilization starts from the land side and gradually shifts towards the sea. The pioneer plants are species like Porterasia coarctata and some members of the Cyprus family. These are slowly replaced by other mangrove plants and then these mangroves gradually spread towards the sea.

Once mangroves grow, the submerged banks are fully stabilized. Then the plants slowly reach a stage which is called the climax vegetation. A climax vegetation of mangroves is represented by the complete circle of life where there are different species of plants, animals (both terrestrial and aquatic) and micro-organisms forming an ecosystem called the tropical salt marsh or the mangrove ecosystem. In case the sediments are not stabilized, submerged banks are washed out. Thousands of deltas are formed and washed out every year before they can be stabilized. In the Gangetic delta this situation is quite common.

Zonation in Mangroves

Mangal along a tropical bay characteristically shows zonation. In India this zonation may be very distinctive (east coast of India) or merging (west coast of India). A very broad and general distinction would be:-

1. Proximal Zone (Front mangroves)

This zone is towards water front, subject to regular tidal effect where intensity of soil accumulation and inundation is a continuous process. The mangrove species in this zone are specially adapted with stilt roots, prop roots for stability and anchorage. Main species with these features are Rhizophora apiculata and Rhizophora mucronata. On rocky and coral reef substrata, Avicennia Spp, Sonneratia Caseolaris are also found. Both Avicennia and Sonneratia produce pneumatophores.

2. Middle Zones (Mid mangroves)

Above the Rhizophora/ Avicennia line luxuriant group of Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, B. Cylindrica, Lumnitzera racemosa, L. littoralis, Ceriops tagal and Aegiceras corniculatum occur. Ceriops and Bruguiera develop a strong hold fast in the form of knee roots or bent roots as a special adoption for supporting the erect bole.

3. Distal Zone (Back mangroves)

Towards island area mangroves like Excoecaris agallocha, Heritiera littoralis and Xylocarnus spp occur. Both Heritiera and Xylocarpus produce buttresses. Generally the salinity is on lower side in this zone occurring towards hill sides where run off of fresh water is for a prolonged period. The duration of tidal submersion is low in this zone compared to front mangroves.

However, the zonation in mangroves is not so simple and varies from place to place. Every species has its own level of salinity tolerance. Estuaries on east coast show distinct zonation. The high salinity range on the east coast estuaries may be the principal reason for distinct zonation there. The range and force of tidal action also play a determinant role in creation and maintenance of zones as distribution of seeds or propagules is influenced by tidal action. Also, tides do influence the salinity in an estuary.

Mangrove Adaptations

Mangrove plants live in hostile environmental conditions such as high salinity, hypoxic (oxygen deficient) waterlogged soil strata, tidal pressures, strong winds and sea waves. To cope up with such a hostile environment mangroves exhibit highly evolved morphological and physiological adaptations to extreme conditions.

Do mangroves need salt?

The answer is no. Mangroves are facultative halophytes, i.e., the presence of salt in the environment is not necessary for the growth of mangroves and they can grow very well in freshwater. One particular advantage to growing in a salty environment is the lack of competition! Only a limited number of plants have invested evolutionary energy into adapting to intertidal conditions. In the optimum conditions of a tropical rainforest, diversity is great and competition fierce.

How do Mangroves cope with salt

  • The first line of defense for many mangroves is to prevent much of the salt from entering by
    How do Mangroves cope with salt
    filtering it out at root level. Some species can exclude more than 90 percent of salt in seawaters (Rhizophora, Ceriops, Bruguiera species are all ‘salt-excluders’.)
  • Another method is the retention of water in the leaves giving rise to leaf succulence in many species, viz., Sonneratia apetala, S. alba, Lumnitzera recemosa, Salvadora persica etc. These species show remarkably high concentration of salts stored in their tissue. To avoid the toxic effects of salts, these plants absorb a large quantity of water for dilution of salt.
  • The leaves of many mangroves have special salt glands, which are among the most active salt-secreting systems known. It is quite possible to see and/or taste the salt on the leaf surfaces of species, which choose this method. (Examples of ‘salt-secretors’ include Avicennia, Sonneratia and Acanthus).
  • Fourth method of coping with salt is to concentrate it in bark or in older leaves which carry it with them when they drop. (Lumnitzera, Avicennia, Ceriops and Sonneratia species all use this) .

Specialized Root System in Mangroves

Specialized Root System

The major plant species forming the mangrove ecosystem have aerial roots, commonly prop roots or
Stilt roots
even stilt roots (Example: Rhizhophora spp). Stilt roots serve, of course, to anchor the plants, but also are important in aeration, because the mangrove mud tends to be anaerobic.

Rhizophora spp (Red mangroves) have prop roots descending from the trunk and branches, providing a stable support system. Other mangrove species, including the white mangroves (A. marina) obtain stability with an extensive system of shallow, underground ”cable roots” that radiate out from the central trunk for a considerable distance in all directions: pneumatophores extend from these cable roots.

Breathing Roots (Pneumatophores) : Special vertical roots, called pneumatophores, form from

Specialized Root System in Mangroves
lateral roots in the mud, often projecting above soil (to a height of 20-30 cms, e.g. Avicennia, Sonneratia ) permitting some oxygen to reach the oxygen-starved submerged roots. Roots also can exhibit development of air cavities in root tissues, designs that aid oxygenation of the tissues. The density, size and number of pneumatophores vary per tree. They are green and contain chlorophyll.

Stilt roots are the main organs for breathing especially during the high tide. They are very common in many species of Rhizophora and Avicennia (Avicennia marina and Avicennia offficinalis). The stilt roots of Rhizophora mucronata extend more than a meter above the soil surface and contain many small pores (lenticels) which at low tide allow oxygen to diffuse into the plant and down to the underground roots by means of open passages called aerenchyma. The lenticels are highly hydrophobic and prevent water penetration into the aerenchyma system during the high tide. In Brugeira and Ceriops they become hollow and malfunctional after some stage.

Aeration occurs also through lenticels in the bark of mangrove species, e.g., species of Rhizophora.

Reproductive Strategies of Mangroves

Reproductive Strategies:
Reproductive Strategies of MangrovesVirtually all mangroves share two common reproductive strategies: dispersal by means of water and vivipary.

Members of the Rhizophoraceae family (Rhizophora, Bruguiera and Ceriops species) have an intriguing viviparous method for successfully reproducing themselves. Vivipary means that the embryo develops continuously while attached to the parent tree and during dispersal. They may grow in place, attached to the parent tree, for one to three years, reaching lengths of up to one meter, before breaking off from the parent and falling into the water.

These seedlings (propagule) then travel in an intriguing way. In buoyant sea water they lie horizontally and move quickly. On reaching fresher (brackish) water however, they turn vertically, roots down and lead buds up, making it easier for them to lodge in the mud at a suitable, less salty. Once lodged in the mud they quickly produce additional roots and begin to grow.

Some other species (Avicennia and Aegiceras) also produce live seedlings but these are still contained within the seed coat when it drops from the plant. The seed of Avicennia floats until this coat drops.

Why should we protect mangroves?

Mangroves, admittedly, are not only important but crucial for the coastal areas. Since estuarine areas are highly populated areas, the slightest ecological imbalance will take a heavy toll. They play a vital role in stabilizing these areas. No engineering and technological solutions can be sought for stabilizing these areas. Even if we negate all benefits of mangroves as forests, their value as "protector of shore-line" is enough to convince us for conserving them.

Mangroves are buffers between the land and the sea. Coastlines throughout the world are facing serious problems of coastal erosion and threat of rising sea levels due to global warming have increased the threats by several folds. To control such assault of the sea on land the nature has provided what is called as Mangroves, a tropical littoral ecosystem which is more dynamic than the sea itself.

Mangroves not only help in preventing soil erosion but also act as a catalyst in reclaiming land from seas. This is a very unique phenomenon, since there is a general tendency of water to engulf land.

Mangrove forests and estuaries are the breeding and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms including the commercially important shrimp, crab and fish species. Hence, loss of mangroves not only affects us indirectly but there are direct economic repercussions through loss of fishing industry.     

Mangrove trees are also used for house building, furniture, transmission as well as telephone poles and certain household items. When these activities are managed appropriately it is possible to derive timber products from mangrove forests without significant environmental degradation, and while maintaining their value as a nursery and a source of food for commercial capture fisheries.

In many coastal areas including Gulf of Kutch, mangroves are a substitute for fodder. Thus mangroves reduce pressures from the scarce pasturelands.

Tannin is extracted from the bark of some mangrove species like Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Ceriops tagal. Indian mangrove trees have 35% tannin in their bark, which is higher compared to other countries. Extracts from mangrove bark are used by Indian fishermen to dye their fishing net and enhance its durability.

Mangrove trees have been the source of firewood in India since ancient time. Because of the high specific gravity of rhizophoraceous wood, the species of Rhizophora, Kandelia, Ceriops and Bruguiera are preferred for firewood. Heritiera agallocha is used for boat building, while Avicennia spp. and Rhizophora spp. are used for brick-burning. Bruguiera spp. are used to make poles. 
Honey collection from the mangrove forest is a promising business in India. It has been estimated that Sundarbans mangrove alone produce 111 tons of honey annually. Honey collected from Cynometra ramiflora and Aegialitis rotundifolia has a good market value and is in demand. 

Avicennia spp., Phoenix paludosa and Sonneratia caseolaris are used for human consumption and as cattle feed. Nypa fruticans is tapped for an alcoholic drink. Leaves of Nypa palm are used for thatching of roofs, Suaeda and Acrostichum leaves are used as green vegetable.

Above all, Mangroves are now looked after by scientists as saviors in the today's scenario of global warming. We all know that most of the coastal areas throughout the world are going to be affected by sea level rise due to global warming. The effects of which are already visible. Therefore, when most of the coastal areas will be flooded, mangroves can possibly provide a gene bank for cultivating salt tolerant species of crops which could be our future resource.

Importance of Mangroves

  1. Buffer Zone between the land and sea.
  2. Protect the land from erosion. 
  3. Play an invaluable role as nature's shield against cyclones, ecological disasters and as protector of shorelines.
  4. Breeding and nursery grounds for a variety of marine animals.
  5. Harbour a variety of lifeforms like invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and even mammals like tigers.
  6. Good source of timber, fuel and fodder.
  7. Main source of income generation for shoreline communities like fisherfolk.
  8. Save the marine diversity, which is fast diminishing.
  9. Purify the water by absorbing impurities and harmful heavy metals and help us to breathe a clean air by absorbing pollutants  in the air.
  10. Potential source for recreation and tourism. 

Threats to Mangrove ecosystem

Large demographic pressure is exerting tremendous stress on the coastal environment. The main culprit in the destruction of mangroves is man. To achieve harmful supremacy over nature, human have destroyed this magnificent ecosystem almost irreparably. Land reclamations and industrial effluents are the major causes of mangroves degradation.

Systematic dumping of all kinds of waste and debris in the mangrove areas destroys them. Land reclamations and industrial effluents are the major causes of mangroves degradation. 
Threats to Mangrove ecosystem

This waste/debris creates a barrier preventing the sea water from entering the mangroves and eventually kills the mangroves. In many instances, this is done intentionally to reclaim land for construction activity. There is an urgent need to stop this systematic degradation of mangroves.
Threats to Mangrove ecosystem

Major threats

Gujral Doctrine

What is Gujral Doctrine?

Former Prime Minister, Late Mr. I.K. Gujral propounded the Gujral Doctrine when he was the Union Minister of External Affairs in 1996-1997 in the H.D. Deve Gowda Government. The Gujral doctrine was a five-point roadmap which sought to build trust between India and neighbours, of solution to bilateral issues through bilateral talks and to remove immediate quid pro quos in diplomatic relationship between India and her neighbours. The ‘Doctrine’ emphasized on the importance of unilateral accommodation for friendly and warm relations with India’s neighbours.

The five principles are:

  1. With neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.
  2. No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
  3. No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.
  4. All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
  5. They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.

The essence of Gujral Doctrine has been that being the largest country in South Asia, India can extend unilateral concessions to neighbours in the sub-continent.

Application of the Doctrine

  • Sharing of Ganga Water with Bangladesh: It is in pursuance of this policy that late in 1996 India concluded an agreement with Bangladesh on sharing of Ganga Waters. This agreement enabled Bangladesh to draw in lean season slightly more water than even the 1977 Agreement had provided.
  • Freezing of Border Dispute with PRC: The confidence building measures agreed upon by India and China in November 1996 were also a part of efforts made by the two countries to improve bilateral relations, and freeze, for the time being, the border dispute.
  • Increasing People to People Contact with Pakistan: This doctrine advocated people to people contacts, particularly between India and Pakistan, to create an atmosphere that would enable the countries concerned to sort out their differences amicably. India unilaterally announced in 1997 several concessions to Pakistan tourists, particularly the elder citizens and cultural groups, in regard to visa fees and police reporting.
  • “Confidence Building Measures” Talks with Pakistan: The Gujral Doctrine assumed significance when at Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan in June 1997, the two countries identified eight areas for negotiation so as to build confidence and seek friendly resolution of all disputes.

Positive aspects of the Doctrine

The logic behind the Gujral Doctrine was that since India had to face two hostile neighbours in the north and the west, it had to be at total peace with all other immediate neighbours in order to contain Pakistan’s and China’s influence in the region. Its significance lies in the insight that for India to become a global power in sync with its stature, it needs a peaceful neighbourhood.

The positive aspects of the Gujral Doctrine can be enumerated as follows.

  1. It recognised the supreme importance of friendly, cordial relations with neighbours.
  2. It helped achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships, including the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan.
  3. Further, the implementation of these principles generated an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation between India and these countries.
  4. The Gujral Doctrine was accepted not only within the country, but also by most of the neighbours and major powers.
  5. In the context of changed international environment in post-cold war world Gujral Doctrine became a new and important principle of India’s foreign policy.
  6. It was implemented by different regional powers like USA, Russia, People Republic of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Germany etc.

Continued relevance of the Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral doctrine postulates that reciprocity among asymmetrical partners in South Asia needs to ensure equity rather than absolute equality in terms of any quid pro quo. India’s sheer physical size and weight of numbers and its economic and military power in relation to its smaller SAARC neighbours, not excluding Pakistan, can be intimidating. Hence, it may not pay to insist on strict parity on all things and at all times. The smaller partner must feel emboldened to accept a fuller relationship at a pace and level at comfort that it may be allowed to determine.

If India follows such a path, it will be serving, not abandoning, its best interests. What matters is the end result. Confidence-building may take a while but is worth the political investment. One can give today to get tomorrow or trade a ‘concession’ in one sector to make a gain in another area. The process is as important as the event and, at the start, perhaps even more important to get things moving.

The Gujral doctrine implies a process, not an objective. It aims at confidence-building, changing mindsets, placing procedures and even issues against a larger and longer perspective of national interest.

Criticism of the Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine had a debilitating impact on R&AW’s ability to conduct intelligence operations in Pakistan. Strategic affairs specialists point out that on Mr. Gujral’s directions, the Pakistan special operations desk of R&AW was shut down, leading to a major gap in India’s intelligence capabilities. Analysts blame this as one of the key factors that led to the intelligence failure before the Kargil war commenced
Over the years, particularly after a series of terrorist attacks, the Gujral Doctrine came to be criticised particularly IK Gujral’s decision to dismantle India’s military ability to launch covert strikes against groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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