RAMANATHAPURAM: Though mangrove plantation drives are taken up annually, several of those plantations remain undeveloped on Ramanathapuram coastline, especially the one in Uppar village that was created a couple of years ago. The saplings in this village have barely grown up to three feet in height. On International Mangrove Day (July 26), TNIE takes a look at the status of plantations in the district.
Mangrove forests are considered to be a unique and complex component of coastal zones in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where the land and freshwater bodies meet the sea. These forest systems are a vital space for carbon sequestration, apart from protecting the shores from natural calamities and preventing soil accretion.
The mangrove forest in Ramanathapuram is spread over 600 hectares along the coastal areas. Though the forests have expanded over the years, it is not a continuous stretch along the district's coastline. The forest department has been taking measures towards planting new saplings annually. Last year, more than 50 hectares of plantation were created in the Ramanathapuram range.
One of the major issues these plantations face is salination of groundwater. Some areas in Ramanathapuram lack backwater sites, and the mangrove growth in these areas is at a much slower rate. Even the saplings that were planted two years ago in these areas remain at the same stage, whereas those planted in areas with proper backwater sources have grown up to 10 feet. Due to the severe climatic changes in the district, these plantation drives witness only a 40% success rate.
Speaking to TNIE, Ramanathapuram Wildlife Warden Bagan Jagadish Sudhakar, said, "We are going to take up plantation for 25 more hectares this year. For this, we have opted for varieties like Avicennia Marina, which are dominant in these localities. Teams have been collecting seeds from the existing plants in the mainland and also in the islands off Ramanathapuram coast. These seeds will be planted in bags at the nurseries from tomorrow. We will then plant them in the selected areas after monsoon, as the soil salination level will be lower during then. Additionally, a proposal has been sent under the MISHTI scheme for expanding the mangrove plantation."
When asked about the growth issue, he said certain areas with higher salination like Uppar near Karangadu, which lacks a proper backwater area, face this issue. "To tackle this, we plan to carry out regular maintenance drives in about 50 hectares of the old plantation through the Green TN Mission scheme," he added.
With this year's International Mangrove Day theme being 'raising awareness about mangrove', the forest department plans to conduct special events on July 26 for college students and July 30 for the public at Karangadu mangrove boating site. The events would include kayaking and boat rides. The entry fee has been fixed at `200. With a view to providing better experience for tourists, the boat rides in mangrove forest at Karangadu will be extended to a few more channels in the area.