The Ayiramthengu mangrove forests at Alapad panchayat in Kollam district, restored by the government eight years ago, is now being destroyed by a government agency for another scheme.
Environment activist V.K. Madhusoodanan said that in the past couple of weeks at least 10 acres of the restored mangroves had been razed using earthmovers to lay a road and construct a sluice across a canal to link the estuarine island of Ayiramthengu with three such islands in the adjacent Alappuzha district for a tourism project. The work is being carried out by the Agency for Development of Aquaculture Kerala (ADAK).
Pearl spot hatchery
The government had handed over the entire island to ADAK for raising a pearl spot (karimeen) hatchery. An ADAK authority who did not wish to be quoted said that the road was being laid under a plan approved by the government.
The irony is that the 50-acre Ayiramthengu mangrove had served as the biggest pearl spot natural hatchery before its destruction, Mr. Madhusoodanan said.
After the tsunami in December 2004, the importance of mangrove forests as an effective natural barrier to sea surges gained recognition. But the paradox at Ayiramthengu is that it is the restored mangroves of an area devastated by the tsunami which is being wantonly destroyed.
Soon after the ban on arrack in 1996, the mangrove forest became a safe haven for illicit breweries.
The trees were felled and used as firewood for breweries. In 1998 the government announced a restoration programme. A Fisheries Department team under the K.M. Lethi, the then Deputy Director (Fisheries), camped at Ayiramthengu and planted nearly 10,000 red mangrove saplings.
Red mangroves were selected because Ayiramthengu used to be the State’s biggest natural habitat of this mangrove species.
By 2008, Ayiramthengu regained its past glory in 25 acres. But two years later destruction restarted when the State Fisheries Resource Management Society began dredging the area to create ponds for a fish hatchery under an aquaculture programme. In 2013, the island was handed over to ADAK.