Will fund its activities totally

The State government has decided to take over the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GOMBRT) with effect from January 1 as it will fund its activities totally.

An order to this effect was issued 10 days ago. Launched in 2002, the GOMBRT was set up to support livelihood of about three lakh members of the fishing community living in 248 coastal villages in the Gulf of Mannar region. It was formed with financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility.

A predominantly coral reef ecosystem, the Gulf of Mannar Reserve comprises 21 islands located along the Rameswaram-Tuticorin stretch. The islands are approximately 10 km wide and 180 km long. The region has over 4,000 species of unique flora and fauna.

A senior official explains that the present funding arrangement comes to an end on December 31. As the government is keen that the activities of the Trust should be carried on further, it has decided to take over the trust. Even now, the trust is headed by the Chief Secretary and comprises Secretaries of various departments such as Environment and Forest (E&F), Fisheries and Animal Husbandry and Rural Development, besides Collectors of Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin Districts. There are some non-official member trustees. The government has received a proposal from the Chief Conservator of Forests and Trust Director for an allocation of Rs. 10 crore to be spent over four years, starting from 2013. The order, issued on November 16, stated that the government would issue a separate order regarding the new funding arrangement.

The official adds that the State E&F Department will take care of the core activity of conservation while the Rural Development Department will handle income-generation schemes for the fishing community.

According to this year’s E&F Department’s Policy Note, 248 village marine conservation and eco-development committees have been formed with about 77,000 fishermen as members. A corpus of Rs.7.75 crore has been created for extending micro finance to its members to pursue alternative livelihood options and this has been revolved to the tune of Rs.24.9 crore, benefiting 30,000 women members. The trust also funds vocational training courses for the youth; conducts coaching classes to school children and undertakes community education programmes for conservation of marine resources and sustainable use.

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