Praveen Paul Joseph

Tuticorin: Plantation for creating a mangrove habitat is in progress in the coastal hamlets of Pazhayakayal and Punnakayal in the district. The plantation will be expanded to the coastal areas along the Gulf of Mannar under a Centre-sponsored scheme, according to M. Sundarakumar, Wildlife Warden, Marine National Park.

A sum of Rs. 17 lakh had been allocated for the project, aimed at increase areas covered by mangroves and to save the existing ones. Speaking to The Hindu here on Thursday, he said that the plantation area would cover 100 hectares. It would be carried out under artificial canal bank planting technique by Forest Department officials to help maintain the eco-system.

Highlighting the importance of mangrove habitat, he said, “mangroves have been considered as ‘bio-guards' for coastal settlements. They are a very dense vegetation type that grow along the shore where saltwater and freshwater meet. More importantly, mangroves lessen the impact of natural calamity such as tsunami. It also serves as an important nursery for various species of fish and increases its productivity. The coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves are considered sensitive habitats. Mangrove forests, which used to serve as a buffer between the rising tide, big waves and storms should be conserved and protected at all cost for sustainable utilization,” he said.

Without understanding the significance of mangroves, some people along the coastal districts had been felling the trees. Measures must be taken to create an awareness of the ecological role of mangroves. “There are only 23 sq. km of mangrove habitat in Tamil Nadu whereas in the Sunderbans, located in the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, it is about one lakh hectares,” he said.

A team of officials led by him inspected the plantation site here on March 1.