THOOTHUKUDI: During his 'Mann Ki Baat' interaction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated Gulf of Mannar forest officials and Thoothukudi residents for the palmyra seed plantation drive in the islands of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve to stop them from being submerged.
After the seeds sprouted on the Vaan islands, a detailed story on the palmyra seed plantation drive was published exclusively in The New Indian Express on November 7 after a visit to the island.
The 21 islands of the Gulf of Mannar region have underwent changes on the morphological and geological fronts over the past 50 years due to a man-made disaster through removal of coral reefs and destructive fishing methods, with vigorous climate change adding fuel to the fire. The Gulf of Mannar ecosystem extending for 364.9 km between Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu supports a rich biodiversity of about 4223 species of various flora and fauna.
However, the fragile ecosystem has drawn attention after scientific studies claimed two islands -- Vilanguchalli and Poovarasanpatti -- which were spread over 2.81 hectares and 4.69 hectares respectively back in 1969 had been fully submerged by around 2017. Besdies, 15 other islands have reduced in size.
Against this backdrop, Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere officials headed by Ranger R Raghuvaran took up the task of planting palmyra seeds on the islands under his jurisdiction, so that it can help mitigate erosion of the island. Later, the activity was expanded to other islands under the instruction of top forest officials to save them.
Palmyra trees have numerous uses, according to historian A Sivasubramanian. It is the state tree of Tamil Nadu. Due to rampant felling of these trees over the last decade for brick kilns, its count drastically reduced. However, the value of the palmyra trees has been recognised of late and the Tamil Nadu government had recently prohibited felling of it.
During his 'Mann Ki Baat' talk, the Prime Minister highlighted the initiative to plant palmyra seeds on the islands of the Gulf of Mannar, a fragile ecosystem which is on the verge of erosion.
With two islands submerged already, officials are taking various steps to protect other islands from vanishing through scientific and natural methods.
PM Modi said that Thoothukudi residents and experts found a natural solution to stop erosion of the islands in the Gulf of Mannar, which is increasingly facing threats of being submerged, by planting palmyra seeds here.
Modi said palmyra trees can withstand storm and cyclones, besides preventing soil erosion. The palmyra seed plantation drive has rekindled hopes of saving the island now, he added.
"Nature poses a danger to us only when we disturb its balance or descrate it. Nature nurtures like a mother and also fills our world with myriads of colours," the Prime Minister noted.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Raghuvaran said that he was taken aback when the Prime Minister narrated the success story of palmyra seed planting activity in the "Mann Ki Baat" programme. The people attached to the Eco Development Committee functioning in the coastal districts joined him in collecting palmyra seeds and the district and forest authorities supported the drive, he said.
The Prime Minister's talk on the palmyra tree's benefits had attested to its value and encouraged the seed plantation drive, said green committee member SJ Kennedy.