Environment & Biodiversity Governance

MISHTI: Mangroves get a budget boost

  • Under MISHTI, the Union Budget for 2023-24 announced an initiative for mangrove plantations along the coastline and on saltpan lands (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes).
  • MISHTI is a new programme that will encourage the planting of mangroves along India’s coastline and on saltpan lands.
  • This new programme will focus on intensive coastal mangrove forest afforestation.

Strategy for Implementation

  • According to the Budget, MISHTI will be implemented through a collaboration of MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) Fund, and other sources.

What exactly are mangroves?

  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant plant communities that can be found in tropical and subtropical intertidal zones.
  • They serve as important refuges for coastal biodiversity as well as bio-shields against extreme weather events.
  • With the threat of climate change and more frequent tropical storms looming, planting more mangroves is a welcome development for India, which has a 7,500-kilometer coastline.

India’s mangroves

  • According to the Indian State of Forest Report (IFSR) 2021, India has approximately 4,992 square kilometres (0.49 million hectares) of mangroves.
  • Mangroves are found in nine Indian states and three union territories, with West Bengal having the most mangrove cover (2,114 square kilometres).
  • According to the IFSR report, mangrove cover has increased from 4,046 square kilometres in 1987 to 4,992 square kilometres in 2021.

Why should mangroves be protected?

  • Infrastructure projects such as industrial expansion, shifting coastlines, coastal erosion, and storms have significantly reduced mangrove habitats.
  • According to the Global Mangrove Alliance’s 2022 report, approximately 600 square kilometres of mangroves were lost between 2010 and 2020, with direct human impacts accounting for more than 62% of the loss.

The significance of mangroves

  • Biodiversity: Mangrove forests, which are made up of trees and shrubs that live in intertidal water in coastal areas, are home to a variety of marine life.
  • Fishing grounds: They also support a diverse food web, with mollusks and algae-filled substrate acting as a breeding ground for small fish, mud crabs, and shrimp, allowing local artisanal fishers to make a living.
  • Carbon sinks include: They also serve as effective carbon sinks, storing up to four times the amount of carbon as other forested ecosystems.
  • Cyclone buffers: When Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal in May, the Sundarbans, which flank the state’s coasts along the Bay of Bengal, largely mitigated its effects.

Mangrove: Endangered Species

  • Anthropogenic activities pose a significant threat to mangroves. These fragile ecosystems are threatened by urbanisation, industrialization, and the discharge of industrial effluents, domestic sewage, and pesticide residues from agricultural lands.
  • Mangroves suffer greatly as a result of saltpan and aquaculture. Shrimp farming alone has destroyed 35,000 hectares of mangroves around the world.
  • Farming destruction: In just three decades, 40% of the west coast’s mangroves have been converted into farmlands and other settlements.
  • Sea-level rise is another threat to these mangroves, particularly along the Bay of Bengal coast.

Way Forward

  • A one-time contract-based plantation under MGNREGS and CAMPA may not work unless local communities take ownership of the forests.
  • The discharge of untreated domestic and industrial effluents into rivers should be stopped immediately.
  • The coast’s natural intertidal flow should be preserved.
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