9 ICRS, BALI, INDONESIA, OCTOBER 2000
Status of Coral Reefs of India
E.V. Muley · J.R.B. Alfred · K. Venkataraman · M.V.M. Wafar
Abstract The major reef formations in India are restricted to the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kachchh, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands. Scattered coral growth has also been reported along certain inter-tidal belts and submerged banks both on the east and west coasts of the country. The reefs at present are important to the local community only to the extent of sustenance fishing. Tourism is being developed at some places though local communities do not benefit much from the revenue generated. The health of corals, as deduced from the literature records since 60s has been on steady decline mainly due to stress from anthropogenic pressures and interference.
Govt. of India,
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi 110 003, India
Zoological Survey of India,
Calcutta, 700 053, India
Zoological Survey of India,Marine Biological Station,
Chennai 600 028, India
National Institute of Oceanograpy,
Donapoula, Goa, 403 004 India
The reef condition is generally poor and declining in near shore waters and areas of high population density. Sedimentation, dredging and coral mining are damaging near shore reefs, while the use of explosives and bottom nets in fishing are damaging off shore reefs in specific sites. The bleaching event of 1998 has been reported to have increased dead coral cover to about 70% in the Gulf of Kachchh, 40-60% in the Gulf of Mannar, 60-80% in Lakshadweep and about 80% (subsequent studies do not confirm this report) in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Quantitative data and studies on monitoring health of coral reef are inadequate. However, post-bleaching surveys in Lakshadweep and Gulf of Mannar have shown slow recovery of some of the coral species. Impacts of bleaching on other reef organisms and reef fisheries have not been evaluated.
Taking in to consideration ecological and economic significance of Coral reefs and the threat perceptions, Government of India has initiated measures for their intensive conservation and management. Present paper deals with ecological status of Coral reefs in the country and various national and international initiatives as well as current efforts of Government of India along with gaps and future directions for their conservation and management.
Keyword Status report · Coral Reefs · India.
Indian subcontinent with its coastline extending over 8,000 km and subtropical climatic condition has very few coral reef areas when compared to other regions of the world. In India, the reefs are distributed along the east and west coasts at restricted places. In India, all the three major reef types (atoll, fringing and barrier) occur, and the region includes some of the most diverse and extensive reef areas of the Indian Ocean, many of which are among the least scientifically known (Fig. 1). The mainland coast of India has two widely separated areas containing reefs: the Gulf of Kachchh in the northwest, which has some of the most northerly reefs in the world, and Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar in the southeast. The absence of major reefs in Bay of Bengal (North East Coast) is attributed to the immense quantity of freshwater and silt brought by the rivers such as Ganges, Krishna and Godavari. There are patches of reef growth on the West Coast, for example coral reefs at Ratnagiri and Malvan. The Andaman and Nicobars have fringing reefs around many islands, and a long barrier reef (329 km) on the west coast. The reefs are poorly known scientifically but may prove to be the most diverse in India and those in the best condition. The Lakshadweep has extensive atoll reefs but these are equally poorly known. The total area of coral reefs in India is estimated at 2,374.9 sq. km.
South East Coast of India
Tamil Nadu, Palk Bay
Coral reefs on the Tamil Nadu coast (South East Coast) are located in the Palk Bay near Rameswaram and in the Gulf of Mannar. Mandapam peninsula and Rameswaram Islands separate Palk Bay from the Gulf of Mannar. The reef is centered at 9o17 N and 79o15 E. There is only one fringing reef in the Palk Bay, which lies along the mainland from the Pamban channel at the Pamban end of the bridge to Rameshwaram Island. This reef is 25-30 km long, and generally less than 200 m wide; maximum depth is around 6 m. Visibility is poor due to siltation and it is influenced by the northeast monsoon. The reef flat is relatively broad from Pamban channel to the southern end near Ramnad and narrow from Pamban to south of Rameswaram.
Gulf of Mannar
The Gulf of Mannar reefs on the other hand are developed around a chain of 21 islands that lie along the 140 km stretch between Tuticorin and Rameswaram. These islands are located between latitude 8047 N and 9015N and longitude 78012E and 79014 E. The islands lie at an average of about 8 km from the main land. They are a part of the Mannar Barrier reef, which are about 140 km long and 25 km wide between Pamban and Tuticorin. Different types of reef forms such as shore, platform, patch and fringing type are also observed in the Gulf of Mannar. The islands have fringing coral reefs and patch reefs around them. Narrow fringing reefs are located mostly at a distance of 50 to 100 m from the islands. On the other hand patch reefs rise from depths of 2 to 9 m and extend to 1 to 2 km in length with width as much as 50 meters. Reef flat is extensive in almost all the reefs in the Gulf of Mannar. Reef vegetation is richly distributed on these reefs. The total area occupied by reef and its associated features is 94.3 sq km. Reef flat and reef vegetation including algae occupies 64.9 and 13.7 sq km respectively (DOD & SAC 1997). Monsoons, coral mining and high sedimentation load affect visibility. These reefs are more luxuriant and richer than the reefs of Palk Bay.
Pillai (1986) provides a comprehensive account of 94 species of corals belonging to 37 genera in the Gulf of Mannar (Pillai, 1971 recorded 117 species of 33 genera; Pillai, 1986 consolidated the list to 94 species belonging to 37 genera). The most commonly occurring genera of corals are Acropora, Montipora and Porites. Coral associates such as ornamental fishes belonging to the family Chaetodontidae, (butterfly fish); Amphiprion spp (clown fish), Holocentrus spp (squirrelfish), Scarus spp (parrotfish), Lutjanus spp (snapper fish) and Abudefdul saxatilis (sergeant major) are found. Extensive sea grass beds are present; green turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and dugongs are dependent on the sea grasses.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
The Andaman & Nicobar group of Islands is located in the south east of the Bay of Bengal, between 6o-14o N latitude and 91o 94o E longitude. They are the emerged part of a mountain chain and lie on a ridge that extends southward from the Irrawaddy delta area of Burma, continuing the trend of the Arakan Yoma range.
The Andaman and Nicobar consist of 530 islands, of which only 38 are inhabited along with a number of exposed islets and rocks. The principal of these is the North Andaman, Middle Andaman with Ritchies Archipelago to the east, South Andaman, little Andaman, Baratang and Rutland Island. The coral reefs are of fringing type and except for a few investigation reports; the reefs of the area still largely remain unknown. A deep oceanic ridge along 10o N separates the Andaman Group and the Nicobar group islands. The orientation of the chain of islands groups is north south. In these island groups there are two Marine National Parks viz., Mahatma Gandhi and Rani Jhansi Marine National Parks and Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve. The coral fauna is diverse when compared to other parts of India.
West Coast of India: Malvan
The West Coast of India between Bombay and Goa is reported to have submerged banks with isolated coral formations (Nair and Qasim 1978). Coral patches have been recorded in the intertidal regions of Ratnagiri and Malavan (Qasim and Wafer 1979) and at the Gaveshani bank, 100 km west to Mangalore (Nair and Qasim 1978).
Malvan coast forms part of Western Ghats where Sahyadri ranges gradually meet the Arabian Sea. From Vengurla point the coast trends towards north for about 22 km. From Malvan bay a chain of submerged and exposed rocky islands extends straight towards south up to 15o53 N and 73o27 E. In this chain, several islands exist including Vengurla Rocks at the Southern tip and Sindhudurg Fort at the northern tip. Other small islets around Sindhudurg Fort are Mandel Rock, Malvan Rock etc. There are numerous exposed rocky outcrops in this area. Sindhudurg is a low fortified island on the coastal reef, which is pointed to the mainland by a fringing reef. Kalarati and Kolamb rivers flank the Malvan coast in the north and Karli River in the south. The coast mainly consists of granites and gneisses and in a few gneissic interruptions the rocks are covered by laterite beds. Behind these marine coastal tertiaries, there are gneisses up to 16o15 N and further North Deccan lava starts. Sandy beaches and rocky cliffs interrupt the coastline near Malavan. Most of the marine flora and fauna from the intertidal area is exposed during any low tide. However, during lowest low tides (particularly minus tides), the coral reefs get exposed. Porites, Coscinaraea, Turbinaria, Favia and Pseudosiderastrea are some of genera reported from this coast. Siltation is of high rate and salinity may drop to 20 ppt during monsoon in some habitats, which may restrict the growth of ecologically sensitive forms of ramose corals. So far no status survey has been conducted in this area and recently the Government of India is planning to protect this area from anthropogenic disturbances.
The Lakshadweep islands lie scattered in the Arabian Sea about 225 450 km from Kerala coast. Geographically, the islands lie between 8oN 12o 3N latitude and 71oE 74oE longitudes. The islands consist of coral formations built up on the Laccadive-Chagos submarine ridge rising steeply from a depth of about 1500 m to 4000 m off the west coast of India. The Union Territory of Lakshadweep along with the Maldives and the Chagos Archipelagoes form an interrupted chain of coral atolls and reefs on a continuous submarine bank covering a distance of over 2000 km. This ridge is supposed to be a continuation of the Arravali Mountain, and the islands are believed to be remnants of the submerged mountain cliffs. There are six tiny islands, 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks, covering an area of 32 km2 with lagoons occupying about 4200 km2. Only 11 of the 36 islands are inhabited. They are Andrott, Amini, Agatti, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kiltan, Minicoy and the headquarters at Kavaratti. The Minicoy Island is separated from the rest of the islands by a 180 km wide stretch of sea known as the nine-degree channel.
The islands are flat and scarcely rise more than two meters. They are made up of coral sand and boulders that have been compacted into sandstone. Coral reefs of the islands are mainly atolls except one platform reef at Andrott. The reef flat occupies 136.5 km area, Sea grass occupies 10.9 sq km and lagoon occupies 309.4 sq km (Bahuguna and Nayak 1994). The depth of the sea increases outside the coral reef and can reach up to 1500-3000 m. Andrott is the largest island with an area of 4.84 sq km and the only island that does not have a lagoon. Bitra with an area of 0.10 sq km is the smallest in land area but perhaps has the most magnificent lagoon. All the islands lie north to south, excepting Andrott that lies east to west. The distance between them varies from 11 km to 378 km.
The coral fauna of Lakshadweep is known to harbor 105 species 27 genera (Pillai 1996). Acropora spp., Pocillopora spp., Porites spp. and massive and encrusting favids dominate the lagoon and reef flat faunal elements. Psammocora spp is common in the northern islands. There is an abundance of blue coral Helipora coerulea. Millepora spp forms the dominant element in the lagoon. Minicoy has some elements such as Lobophyllia and Diploastrea that are common to the Maldives but rarely found in the northern islands. Similarly, the genera Montipora and Echinopora recorded from the northern group of atolls are not recorded in Minicoy.
Eighty-six species of macrophytes, 10 anomuran crabs, 81 brachyuran crabs, 155 Gastropods, 24 Bivalves, 13 sea stars, 6 brittle stars, 23 sea cucumbers, 15 sea urchins and 603 species of fish are found in the Lakshadweep. The green turtle and the hawksbill turtle are also found in all the islands.
Gulf of Kachchh
Gujarat State having 600 km long coastline is very rich in various edible fishes and various types of algae. Veraval and Mongrol are fishing harbours exporting large quantity of quality fishes, crabs etc. Mangrol, Porbandar, Okha, Bedi and Dwarka have also got a great potential value for producing large quantity of such fishes for export as the Gulf of Kachchh is a heaven for their breeding. The Gulf of Kachchh is the richest source of floral, faunal, and marine wealth of India, as it gives favorable conditions for breeding and shelter to a large variety of marine lives in the 42 islands. Extensive mangroves are present in the Indus River Delta forming several islands. The tidal range in the Gulf is reported to be as great as 12 m, but may have seasonal changes with extreme low tides at certain times of the year (Brown 1997). The corals in the Gulf of Kachchh survive through extreme environmental conditions such as high temperature, salinity changes and high-suspended particulate loads (Wafar et al. 2000).
The annual rainfall in this area is less than 5 cm with maximum precipitation in July-August. Relative humidity is highest in August (82%) and lowest in December-January (60%). Atmospheric temperature varies from 10o C (January) to 35o C (May-June). Wind pattern is predominantly seasonal with rare cyclonic disturbances. Predominant wind direction in the Gulf of Kachchh is West southwesterly and north easterly during June to September and December to March respectively. July is the windiest month with wind speed exceeding 20 knots/h during the major part of the month (Srivasthava and John 1977). Dominant direction of the wind is from west or west-southwest. Tides in the Gulf of Kachchh are of mixed, predominantly semidiurnal type with a large diurnal inequality (Srivasthava and John 1977).
The mean spring tidal influx extends from the mouth to the closed end of the Gulf and it has a range between 2.1 m and 6.2 m. A distinct correlation exists between the tidal range and the tidal current speed. The Gulf of Kachchh is elongated in the east west direction and has an average depth of 30 m. Its coastal configuration is very irregular with a number of islands, creeks and bays.
The Scleractinian fauna of India
A total of 199 species 37 genera are recorded from India, including Lakshadweep, the Gulf of Kachchh, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Out of these 155 species belong to hermatypes and 44 species ahermatypes. The Indian Ocean as a whole is known to harbor 88 genera of hermatypes (Scheer 1984), which means 56.8 percent of the total known hermatypic genera of the Indian Ocean, is present in Indian waters.
The hermatypes constitute 77.8% of the coral fauna and the ahermatypes form 22.2%. Among the hermatypes Acropora alone forms 20% and Montipora 13%, the two numerically rich genera. The members of the suborder Astrocoeniina constitute 34.7%, Fungiina 25.7%, Faviina 22.6%, Caryophylliina 8% and Dendrophylliina constitute 9% of the coral fauna of India. (hermatypes and ahermatypes included). No genus is endemic to India. The coral reefs of southeast India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep harbour Acropora community (Pillai 1971, 1986). The coral growths in Gulf of Kachchh are mostly found scattered and are in a juvenile stage.
A recent study conducted by Zoological Survey of India, Chennai during the GCRMN Coral Training Workshop at Port Blair (December, 1998) found that the total number of genera and species of scleractinian corals might increase up to 300 species. This includes the already published list of corals by many authors and the recent findings (ZSI, unpublished data) by Zoological Survey of India, Chennai.
Threats to coral reefs
Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar
There are about 47 fishing villages along the coast of which 38 are in the Ramanathapuram district and nine in V.O.Chidambaranar district bordering the Gulf of Mannar Park area having a population of 12,000 entirely depending on fishing. Exploitation of fishery resources in the inshore waters has been the sole occupation of hundreds of fishing families along the coast for centuries. The reefs are used to carry out reef fishery, chanks and pearl fishery, ornamental shell trade and illegal mining of corals. The villagers around Palk Bay harvest holothurians, seahorse and pipefishes. Other harvesting activities include chanks and milk fish fry. Turtles are being harvested up to 1000 annually; Dugongs are also poached.
The destruction of reefs and reef associated organisms in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay is perhaps unparalleled in the history of environmental damage to nature and natural resources in the recent past (Pillai 1996). The coral reefs on Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar were quarried for industrial purposes from early sixties from Mandapam to Tuticorin. The estimate of coral quarried varies. At Tuticorin the estimate was 80,000 t per year. Pillai (1973) estimated the exploitation of corals from Mandapam area during sixties and early seventies to the tune of 250 m3 per day. It is reported that some of the islands (Vilanguchalli in Tuticorin group and Poovarasanpatti Island in Keelakari group) are totally submerged and vanished may be due to quarrying (Venkataraman 2000). A recent status survey on the coral reefs of Gulf of Mannar has revealed that only 25% corals survived the recent bleaching event in 1998 (Venkataraman 2000). The huge colonies of corals that occupied large areas in the lagoons of many islands are no more there due to bleaching, over exploitation of algae and collection of shells by fishermen in an extensive scale. Fishermen during collection of algae to negotiate their boat break most of the corals. The export of live crabs and lobsters from this area in the recent years is also causing damage to live corals. Fish traps (Koodu) to collect live crabs are causing a lot of destruction to coral reefs in these areas. Other than these disturbances, siltation, agricultural run off, sewage discharge as well as the fecal pollution are the major problems in these areas.
Most of the corals have been adversely affected during the bleaching in 1998, which destroyed most shallow water corals. Overall, the bleaching event increased dead coral cover by about 60 80%. Venkataraman (2000) reported that only about 25% of live corals remain in Gulf of Mannar. The most affected species were the branching corals such as Acropora and Pocillopora spp. Montipora is also reported to have affected by the 1998-bleaching event. Massive corals have now become the dominant species in all three groups of the 21 islands and the branching corals have been almost completely wiped out in the Tuticorin group, whilst the other two groups of Mandapam and Keelakari groups have up to about 2% and 1% respectively (Venkataraman, 2000).
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
According to the 1991 census, the human population of the islands was 279 thousand and the estimated population by the new millenium would be 405 thousand, of this total, the tribal population is only 23 thousand. Very little documented information exists on the relationship between the original tribal population and the coral reefs. The population mainly consists of settlers from the mainland who came after the establishment of penal settlements in 1857. Clearly, the greatest impact of human activities on reef resources is due to the demands of the settler populations, government servants, business opportunists and tourists who visit the island for pleasure.
Today, among all the reefs in India, many areas in Andaman and Nicobar remain to be in near pristine condition (56 to 65% live coral exist as per the studies conducted by ZSI, UNDP, GEF PDF B unpublished Report, 2000). However, during a recent survey of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park area in South Andaman, it was observed that siltation has caused mass mortality of corals at Tarmuguli and Hobday Island (ZSI unpublished data). The corals near old Wandoor area and Chidiatapu of South Andaman and Dugong creek and Hut Bay area of Little Andaman have died mainly due to siltation. The plantation of oil palm trees at Little Andaman may be the cause for the death of many coral reefs in this island (personal observation by KV). Mass mortality of corals was also observed in and around Port Blair probably due to siltation. It is observed that effluents might be one of the reasons for the destruction of coral reefs in this area. During a recent survey at Neil Island near the Ritches Archipelago (GCRMN coral taxonomy training, 1999; personal observation KV) most of the coral reefs were found dead. This is probably due the agricultural run off from this island where a lot of vegetables grown and also due to the application of pesticides to get a good yield of vegetables (personal observation KV). So far, no studies on the effect of cultivation on coral reef have been done on this island. In recent days, a lot of construction and developmental activities are going on in many areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Construction of Jetty, road and buildings needs a lot of sand material. Sand mining is the major activity that leads to destruction of coral reefs in many islands in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (personal observation KV). Collection of coral reef associates such as Trochus and other shells as well as other reef resources are also causing damage. Invasion of crown of thorn starfish (Acanthaster planchi) and White Band Disease are reported in many reefs in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
112 species of sponges, 1200 species of fish, 8 species of shark and spiny lobsters, dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles are also encountered. The Andaman and Nicobar group of islands supports 219 species of corals, 120 species of algae, 70 species of sponges, 27 species of prawns, 30 species of crab along with lobster and barnacles.The bleaching event in 1998 destroyed about 80% of live corals in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as reported in the media. However, a recent survey conducted in the Little Andaman and Great Nicobar Islands revealed mean live coral cover of 56%, dead coral cover of 22% and coral rubble of 11% (calculated from UNDP-GEF PDF B Project unpublished report, 2000).
The crown of thorns starfish was first noticed at Agatti Island in 1977, It has now spread to almost all the islands and reefs. Black and white band diseases have also been observed in shallow coral areas and there are reports of pink band disease (Raghukumar and Raghukumar 1991). Other than bleaching, the main causes for the loss of reef biodiversity are coral mining, dredging of navigational channels, unsustainable fishing practices, coastal development activities, souvenir collection and other population associated pressures (Koya et al. 2000). Routine monitoring of nutrients has not indicated any sewage or oil pollution in the reef lagoons. Although the blasting of corals to create navigational channels has been stopped, the construction of breakwaters on some of the islands is a cause for concern about coastal erosion related problems (Koya et al. 2000).
In recent times people have noticed a drop in fish catch within the reef lagoons, which could be due to the loss of live corals due to bleaching, or to increased harvesting due to population increase on the islands. The population in most islands has tripled during the last two decades (Koya et al. 2000). Methods of catching live bait for the tuna fishery causes damage to the reefs and the reduction of live bait for the tuna fishery has an adverse impact on the local economy since the tuna fishery is the mainstay of the local people.
The bleaching event of 1998 destroyed much of the living coral cover around Lakshadweep. There are varying reports on loss of live coral and the impact of bleaching estimated between 43-87% and 60-80% (Wafar, 1999; Muley et al. 2000). Live coral cover has declined strikingly in the post-bleaching period to about 10% live coral in Kadmat Island.
Gulf of Kachchh
The local population depends on the reef resources only for subsistence. The major impacts on the coral reef ecosystem come from industrial development, including cutting of mangroves, development of ports and offshore moorings and pollution from large cities. Anthropogenic impacts due to human activities have degraded the coral reef habitats and reduced the coral cover by more than 50% on most reefs (Wafar et al. 2000). Species diversity of corals is low in the Gulf of Kachchh with only 37 species of hard corals recorded and a total absence of ramose growth forms (Wafar et al. 2000). They have also reported that 70% of live corals were destroyed during the 1998-bleaching event.
Systematic efforts related to conservation and management been initiated by India way back in 1986. To achieve goals Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) launched a Scheme in 1986. On the recommendations of the National Committee on Mangrove and Coral Reefs all the four major coral reefs in the country have been identified for intensive conservation and management. Major activities include conservation, protection, eco-development and awareness amongst the communities. Grants are released to the concern State for implementation of Management Action Plans (MAPs). On the identified coral reef areas State level Steering Committees have been constituted to over see the progress of implementation of Management Action Plans. The overall progress is monitored by the National Committee consisting of members from various line Ministries/Department as well as experts and the representatives of the implementing agencies. So as to integrate research activities with the management a Research Sub-committee on Mangroves and Coral refs has been constituted to advice the Government. Thrust areas of research having close linkages with the major management issues based on the threat perceptions and gap areas have been identified. Nodal institutions in the vicinity of the respective coral reef areas have been identified and encouraged to pursue research on these identified thrust areas. So as to ensure community participation in the conservation efforts the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) of repute are encouraged to take-up the eco-development and awareness activities in the respective coral reef areas. Attempts have been made to identify sustainable livelihood options for the community based on their needs and dependence on the coral reef resources so as to reduce the pressure on this fragile ecosystem.
In view to strengthen the measures for protection, adequate infrastructure is made available to the concerned agencies for effective implementation of MAPs. It has been noticed that the concerned state forest persons involved in the implementation of MAPs have been lacking the desired skills and expertise in the monitoring health of coral reefs. The MoEF with the assistance of certain international initiatives has initiated training and capacity building efforts to fulfil this gap. Training programs to this effect have been conducted at Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as Kadamat in Lakshadweep Islands. Including the concerned forest officials of the respective Union Territories the representation of the local institution were imparted training. The National Committee has also noticed that the expertise in taxonomy of coral reefs in the country has been declining. So as to fill up this gap measures have been initiated. Training on Taxonomy of Coral reef was organised at Port Blair. Researchers from the established academic institutions were imparted this training with the assistance of GCRMN. Training on Socioeconomic Monitoring is also imparted in Andaman and Lakshadweep islands.
So as to supplement the National efforts related to conservation of coral reef and associated coastal biodiversity Ministry of Environment has been collaborating through various international initiatives in the country. Under the UNDP/GEF PDF B programme studies have been completed on the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu. MoEF through M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai implemented the project. Detailed document for the major project for consideration of the financial assistance by the GEF Assembly is being finalised. Another UNDP PDF B Project on the Management of Coral reefs in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is in its concluding phase. The ultimate aim of this project is to develop a Management Action Plan on Coral reefs of Andaman and Nicobar islands. Which according to the mission visit undertaken in this project, have been reported to be under near pristine condition. With assistance from AUSAID the MoEF has developed a project on India Australia Training and capacity Building (IATCB) on coral reefs.
The coral reefs of India are being conserved traditionally from time in memorial. Nevertheless, Government of India has also developed adequate policy framework so as to protect the coral reefs in the country. So as to regulate the on shore developmental activities affecting the coastal environment Government of India issued a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification in 1991 and amendments in the subsequent years. The collection of corals in live or dead form is strictly prohibited under this notification. The respective state/union territories have prepared site-specific Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs). Environmental Protection Act (1986) and the National conservation Strategy and policy statement on environment and development (1992) as well as the action plan of the Ministry of Environment and Forest have given due consideration this effect. Under the Wild life Protection Act (1972) the protection is provided to certain marine species. Efforts continued to bring corals under this act and to encourage the enforcement of the same.
Under the Marine Protected Area Network, MoEF has declared Gulf of Mannar and Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserves in 1989. Similarly the MoEF has notified Gulf of Kachchh (Gujarat), Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (Andaman) and Rani Jansi Marine National Park (Andaman) as Marine National Parks. This has provided effective management strategies for protection of coral reefs from the anthropogenic activities.
Ministry is also represented on the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), South Asia. The MAPs developed with the assistance form GCRMN have been integrated with the ongoing efforts of the MoEF. Under the existing Scheme Ministry has established Indian Coral Reef Monitoring Network (ICRMN) so as to focus the attention on the issues related to monitoring the health of coral reefs and strengthen training and capacity building as well as infrastructure for protection of coral reefs. So as to integrate these efforts a backup network of database centers and the Focal Points have been identified for the respective Coral reef areas on east and west coast. Ministry also has launched a website of ICRMN for dissemination of coral related information to the community at large. So as to share this information at the National and international level efforts are underway to collect, collate and disseminate the data including the Geographical Information System (GIS) related information on Indian coral reef on this web site.
Encouragements from Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi and assistance from GCRMN, South Asia to attend the 9ICRS Bali is gratefully acknowledged.
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