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Rs300-cr project to protect fragile coastlines cleared in Maharashtra

World Bank will fund 50% if the scheme, which has earlier been implemented in Gujarat, West Bengal and Odisha

mumbai Updated: Jan 25, 2018 23:03 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,World Bank,coastal management
The mangroves in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg face threats from a variety of factors. (HT FILE)

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has approved a Rs300 crore proposal, partly funded by the World Bank, to protect fragile coastlines and create sustainable management of coastal and marine resources in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri.

While the World Bank will finance 50% of the project cost, the central government (30%) and Maharashtra state government (20%), will contribute the rest. The project, under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP), was developed in West Bengal, Odisha and Gujarat as pilot projects between 2011 and 2016, at a total cost of over Rs1,200 crore.

Maharashtra’s 720-kilometre coastline, stretching from Zai River bordering Gujarat to Terekhol River bordering Goa, has 222 square kilometre of mangrove (inter-tidal vegetation) cover, of which 36 square kilometre is in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts. HT had reported earlier this month that coastal ecosystems in Sindhudurg are under threat from sand mining, unregulated tourism, untreated waste, pesticide run-off and overfishing, stressing otters and other aquatic life.

“The proposal presented various activities which would entail socio-economic development and alternate livelihood projects in coastal areas in tune with environmental protection. We approved the same for Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. This is the first time the World Bank is investing in a project for any coastal area in Maharashtra,” said Satish Gavai, chairman, MCZMA and additional chief secretary, state environment department. “Industries usually have a negative impact on coastal environments. In order to counter that ICZM plans are being considered.”

The programme will include wastewater treatment, solid waste management and mapping of ecologically sensitive areas such coastal and marine wildlife, apart from livelihood schemes for coastal settlements such as coral transplantation, seaweed cultivation, and crab and mussel farming. Tourism activities will include scuba diving and coral reef watch programmes.

“The project concept is in its preliminary stage. It will now be sent to the Union environment ministry for its nod, and then a detailed project proposal will be prepared after collating requirements at both coastal districts. It will further require a final nod from the World Bank before implementation,” said Gavai.

When HT reached out to World Bank for a comment, they shared the official ICZM project document for all nine coastal districts in India, including Maharashtra, and project reports from Gujarat, West Bengal and Odisha but avoided commenting on it since the project was in its preliminary stages.

The project in Gujarat has been a success, according to the state government. Between 2011 and 2016, the state added 1,000 square kilometre of mangroves from Valsad in the south to Kutch in the north. “There was also a significant improvement in soil quality for better farming produce, livelihood schemes for fishing community such as crab, mussel farming, apiculture [technical term for beekeeping], and even coral collection for cement production, all of which helped them garner employment and revenue,” said SK Nanda, former principal secretary, Gujarat state environment and forests department. “This is a scheme that combines economics with ecology, and it was a huge success for Gujarat, West Bengal and Odisha. One of the most unique features of the project entailed convincing farmers in coastal areas to feed their cattle mangrove leaves, which resulted in a significant increase in milk production.”

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 23:03 IST