In a major boost to coastal biodiversity conservation programmes in the country,an international agency has set aside around Rs 80 crore for sustainable management of eight coastal and marine protected areas through a five-year project.
Maharashtra has the biggest share with three project sites Thane creek,Ansure creek and Velas-Dabhol coast in Ratnagiri district.
The Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD) will receive technical assistance from the agency for preservation the biodiversity of these ecologically important areas. At the sites,Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) will conduct baseline studies and research and come up with management plans and develop strategies for viable income-generation programmes for the locals dependant on this biodiversity for their livelihood.
Th GIZ project would enable eco-tourism and mangrove regeneration along the Thane creek. MFD is likely to start motorboat-enabled wetland tourism near the northern part of the Vashi bridge and employ locals as guides,an MFD official said.
The MFD held a consultative meeting with GIZ on Friday.
It was decided that a steering committee will be formed to also devise a plan to find a solution to the pollution of Thane creek. The committee would include officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board,fisheries department,maritime board and members from non-governmental organisations.
We hope this project will provide a launching pad for the clean-up of the Thane creek. We have planned to bring together important stakeholders to devise strategies to clean the creek and implement other conservation programmes. We are doing this to ensure our programme will continue even after this project ends, said N Vasudevan,chief conservator of forests,mangrove cell,who is the nodal officer appointed by the MFD for this project. The actual visible effects of this project will only be seen only after a few years,he added.
Meanwhile,dolphin-watching tours and tours through turtle-nesting sites will begin along the Velas-Dabhol coast. The MFD will also arrange for home stays at this site. Mussels and oysters farming,crab farming,honey farming will begin near the Ansure creek to engage locals in the conservation activities.
GIZ programmes will also spread awareness in the fishing community about sustainable fishing practices. The agency was entrusted by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment,Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety to implement the project,whose agreement was signed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on October 15.
The collaboration will upgrade the mangrove cell,said an officer from the MFD. The forest department which mainly focused on territorial forests was giving the charge of mangroves two years ago. It is a new area of operation for which officials lacked expertise. The staff is in need of the world-class training that can be provided by this agency, said the officer,who did not wish to be named.