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‘Marine biodiversity conservation needs to be improved in the country’

Meet N Vasudevan, an IFS officer with a Masters is marine biology and head of Maharashtra’s mangrove cell.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2018 20:32 IST
‘Sindhudurg has, by far, the richest marine biodiversity in Maharashtra. Among the richest in the country,’ says N Vasudevan.
‘Sindhudurg has, by far, the richest marine biodiversity in Maharashtra. Among the richest in the country,’ says N Vasudevan. (Pratik Chorge / HT Photo)

N Vasudevan is additional principal chief conservator of forests and state nodal officer for all marine biodiversity conservation projects under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He has a Masters in marine biology. And he heads Maharashtra’s mangrove cell, tasked with protecting the mangrove ecosystem and marine biodiversity. We talked to him about exactly what needs to change, and what his department needs in order to make that happen.

What are the biggest threats faced by our marine ecosystems, in your opinion?

The problems along the coastline are not exclusive to Maharashtra, but apply across the country’s coastlines. The invasion of plastic and other solid waste are a key concern. Terrestrial activities like sand mining and watersports. Tourism in general… because it is a revenue-driven sector, there is not much sensitivity towards conservation.

There is also pesticide runoff from fields; and overfishing — accidental or deliberate.

There are apparently only two forest guards manning 80,000 hectares along the coast. Shouldn’t there be more?

The forest department needs to strengthen its assets. The department’s mandate is to protect wildlife. There is a need to train people better so they have a better understanding of how to do this. This is being addressed. We plan to recruit more people, train them in species recognition and even scuba-diving and snorkelling to understand marine wildlife better too.

N Vasudevan is an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer with a Masters is marine biology. He is also the state nodal officer for all marine biodiversity conservation projects under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (HT File Photo)

There’s a much sharper focus on terrestrial wildlife conservation in India. That kind of focus is missing when it comes to marine habitats. Does this blind-spot effect concern you?

Marine biodiversity conservation needs to be improved in our country. The ideas are there but they’re still at a nascent state. Sindhudurg has, by far, the richest marine biodiversity in Maharashtra. Among the richest in the country. So our focus along the coastline has always been there. Clean-ups have been conducted across 30 beaches in Sindhudurg — at least three times by us and then by the maritime board. Now locals do it every month because we have been able to inculcate in them a sense of the importance of the exercise.

So what’s next for marine conservation along the Sindhudurg coast?

We are carrying out studies on the types of marine animals here. We have studied corals, categorised and mapped them. We have done the same for dolphins and crustaceans, and conducted studies on how to protect them. We have plans for three marine mammal rescue centres in the district.

What about local and inter-departmental involvement in these efforts?

There is a need to segregate waste at the panchayat level. That is not in place yet but we are working with the clusters that do segregate waste. Soon, that will improve across the coastline. Conservation is not limited to a particular sector. There is need for a mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation across sectors, and see how local species can be protected. Involve locals, corporations, fishermen, tourism companies and hotels. Then we can look at it from the policy level.