How MISHTI plans to conserve mangroves - Hindustan Times
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How MISHTI plans to conserve mangroves

Mar 20, 2023 06:46 PM IST

MISHTI, launched by PM Modi, is a significant step in providing nature-based solutions for mitigating the effects of cyclones and storm surges and our fight against the climate crisis.

Today is the International Day of Forests. As oxygen generators, carbon sinks and home to diverse wildlife and rich biodiversity, the importance of forests and the need for their expansion cannot be emphasised enough. Under Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, India is on course to devise a unique biodiversity conservation model through a holistic approach. India is displaying its commitment to the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and has firm commitments towards the conservation and management of mangroves.

Globally, the rate of mangrove decline is approximately 1% per year; India has recorded a net increase of 946 sq km between 2017 and 2021 (ht photo)
Globally, the rate of mangrove decline is approximately 1% per year; India has recorded a net increase of 946 sq km between 2017 and 2021 (ht photo)

As part of this effort, in Budget 2023-24, the Modi government, building on India’s success in afforestation, rolled out the Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes (MISHTI). Under this scheme, mangrove plantations along the coastline and on salt pans will be taken up. The government is emphasising mangroves because this tidal forest serves as a nursery for several organisms. It also acts as a bulwark against coastal erosion, sequestering carbon and providing livelihoods to millions of people, besides harbouring an array of faunal elements in its habitat.

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India recently joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC), a joint initiative of Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. The world has much to gain from India’s experience in mangrove conservation because we have shown expertise in the area for nearly five decades. India has restored different types of mangrove ecosystems on the east and west coasts and learnt some valuable lessons.

Mangrove forests constitute an extremely productive ecosystem, representing less than 0.4% of the global forest area, and they provide numerous goods and services to the marine environment and communities. Across the globe, mangroves are in 123 countries, covering an area of about 150,000 sq km. Approximately one-third is in Southeast Asia.

Mangroves are great carbon sinks. All global mangroves can sequester up to 21 million tonnes of carbon per year, about 10 times greater than equivalent upland tropical forests. Moreover, mangrove ecosystems contribute 10 to 15% to coastal sediment carbon storage and export around 10% of particulate terrestrial carbon to the ocean. India is trying to harness mangroves’ contribution to carbon sequestration as a means for conservation and restoration and a way to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate impacts.

Spread across nearly 50,000 sq km in India, mangroves can remove nine tonnes of CO2 daily, equivalent to about $270 million in the international market. Mangroves also protect groundwater aquifers from seawater intrusion, ensuring water security for the coastal population. In addition, a global fish catch of up to 80% depends on mangroves, ensuring food security for coastal people.

The wide range of coastal habitats, along with the riverine and estuarine ecosystem, provides an ideal system for mangroves in India in terms of density and cover. Indian mangroves have high species diversity, with around 50 true mangrove species and more than 60 mangrove-associated plant species.

Mangroves harbour most groups of faunal communities, from protozoa to mammals. The faunal diversity of the mangrove ecosystem contributes to about 5% of Indian fauna. West Bengal leads the list of faunal components with around 2,500 species, followed by Andaman and Nicobar Islands with about 1,200 species and Tamil Nadu with a little over 1,000.

It is interesting to note that the Sundarban mangroves are the only mangrove habitat for tigers worldwide. The Sundarban Tiger Reserve harbours more than 100 tigers and associated carnivores and herbivores. Recognising the importance of such tiger habitat in the mangrove forest, the Sundarban National Park has been declared a world heritage site.

Their richness, sadly, also adds to their vulnerability. Mangroves have been particularly susceptible to exploitation because of valuable forest produce, fishery resources and their existence in coastal areas, which are converted to other land uses. As a result, the scale of human impact on mangroves has increased dramatically over the past three decades, and many countries have lost 60% to 80% of the mangrove cover that existed in the 1960s.

Globally, the rate of mangrove decline is approximately 1% per year; India has recorded a net increase of 946 sq km between 2017 and 2021. To further give an impetus to efforts being made to conserve the mangrove ecosystems, the country has opted for MISHTI for an integrated approach to mangrove management through coherent policy development and involving all stakeholders involved. This is the best way to achieve conservation and sustainable use of biological resources, which a mangrove ecosystem supports.

Mangroves are the economic foundations of many tropical coastal regions. Therefore, to sustain a blue economy, it is imperative to ensure the sustainability of coastal habitats, particularly mangroves for tropical nations, at the local, regional and international levels.

MISHTI, launched by PM Modi, is a significant step in providing nature-based solutions for mitigating the effects of cyclones and storm surges and our fight against the climate crisis.

Bhupender Yadav is Union Cabinet Minister for environment, forest and climate change, and labour and employment The views expressed are personal

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