When we protect nature, in return nature protects us’- a saying which is even an anecdote carrying a strong message. In Tamil Nadu, 350 km between Rameswaram and Kanyakumari holds about 10,500 sq km, which was declared by the Centre in 1989 as the Mannar Gulf Marine Planetary Archive, also recognised by Unesco. This area is a hotspot to some of the world’s most significant marine biodiversity. Meanwhile, more than 4,000 marine flora and fauna have been identified here. This includes the endangered species of sea cow, more than 10 species of seagrass and about 115 species of corals.
As for the coral reefs, it has been located numerously at 560 sq km at the Thoothukudi coast. Therefore, the Tamil Nadu government has declared this area as a protected Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. This national park has been created to cover 21 islands surrounded. These islands are also the livelihood of the fishermen as they are rich in fish resources. However, these islands, which are important for the maritime environment and coastal protection, have been facing great danger in recent times. The condition of the islands is also changing due to factors including climate change. Eventually, in the last few years, two small islands, Vilankusalli Island in the Thoothukudi group and Poovarasanpatti in the Keezhakarai group, have disappeared by submerging into the sea.
The Van Island is located on the southern border of the Gulf of Mannar. Due to its proximity to the coast, Van Island attracts a lot of attention. Unfortunately, sea erosion has eventually dragged the island to danger. Researchers also point out that the Van Island in the Thoothukudi area has shrunk significantly in the last few years.
To protect this, the Mannar Bay Biosphere Reserve Foundation has started planting palm seeds in 2018 to prevent these sea erosions in the Van Island area. With the initiative of the Thoothukudi Area Forest Officials, the palm seeds were sown on the island by forest personnel with the support of the locals, guards and the Coastal Village Environmental Protection Committee. About 2,000 palm seeds have been sown in the Van Island area alone.
Similarly, the palmyra seeds have been planted on Kasuwari Island and Nallathanni Islands in Thoothukudi. This was followed by the expansion of palmyra seed planting in 10 Islands bordering the Thoothukudi and Ramanathapuram districts. Subsequently, seasonal palm seeds have been collected and transported by boat to Island areas for planting. About 25,000 palm seeds have been sown in 10 Islands in the last four years. In addition, the Forest Department also maintains a variety of traditional trees on the Islands. Thus, the palmyra trees will prevent sea erosion and prevent the Islands from sinking.
In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised the growing of palmyra trees on the Islands at Thoothukudi coast, during his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, which has gained prominence and delight for foresters and the coastal people of Thoothukudi. Speaking about the drive, Thoothukudi District Collector Senthil Raj on Sunday said, “Along with community participation the district administration would take forward the plantation of palmyra which is the state tree of Tamil Nadu, on Gulf of Mannar Islands present along the Thoothukudi coast.”
He stated that the Palmyra plantation would effectively control soil erosion and aid in maintaining the good health of corals around the islands since corals are an important part of maintaining the ecosystem.
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