Mangrove vegetation across two acres in Nettoor cut down ‘by real estate group’
Fish wealth and the productivity of Kochi backwaters have taken a beating as the district is denuded of its mangrove stretches, according to experts.
Mangrove vegetation in the district has been reduced to one-third of its original area over the past few decades. The latest incident in the series of destruction of mangroves took place near Nettoor on Wednesday when vegetation in around two acres was cut down.
“Maradu Municipality has petitioned the Panangad Police, Forest and Revenue officials seeking stern action against those who destructed the vegetation,” said Antony Ashanparambil, the chairperson of the Development Standing Committee of the Maradu Municipality.
The mangroves which were there for over twenty-five years were cut down. Some trees had grown to the girth size of around 20 inches. The municipality had also passed a resolution condemning the incident and seeking legal action against those behind the act, he said.
The officials of the Forest Department said that no information on the destruction of mangroves had reached them.
Fisheries experts pointed out that mangroves had direct impact on the productivity of freshwater and brackish water ecosystems. Mangroves provide nutrients and shelter to a number of fish and shellfishes during the crucial phases of their lives, especially the larval and the post-larval stage, said B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University for Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
The vegetation is considered as the nursery of a number of fish species. The depletion of mangrove vegetation would have drastic effects on the fish productivity of the waterbody, he warned.
C.R. Neelakandan, an environmentalist, said there were complaints that some real estate groups were behind the destruction of the vegetation in Nettoor.
C.M. Joy, executive committee member of the Aluva Paristhithi Samrakshana Samity said one of the reasons for the falling fish productivity of the Kochi backwaters over past 25 years was the destruction of mangroves. Fish productivity from the waterbody has thinned considerably over the years along with the vanishing tracts of mangroves, said Dr. Joy.
Earlier studies had pointed out that there were around 500 hectares of mangroves in Kochi during the 70s. Now, the mangrove vegetation has come down to less than 150 hectares in the district. The extent of the wetland was also shrinking, leading to drastic fall in its productivity, he said.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and social activists are planning to replant mangroves in the area where it was destructed. “We are contemplating to replant mangroves in place of the destructed ones. The project will be finalised in consultation with Forest officials and ecologists,” said Mr. Antony.
Trade unionists and workers had earlier replanted saplings in Nettoor area in place of the trees that were axed by somebody, he said.