Thane, Vasai and Vaitarna creeks are three of the 17 sites in Maharashtra that have been identified as “Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas (ICMBA)” by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is set to publish next week an atlas on ICMBAs in the country based on a study conducted on 350 potential sites along India’s coastline between 2005 and 2012.
Threatened by sand mining, unsustainable fishing practices, poaching, and reclamation, these areas need immediate attention for conservation, the study suggests.
Of the total 350 potential sites visited by the WII team along the 7517-km length coastline, 106 were identified as ICMBAs – 62 on the west coast and 44 on the east coast. Of these, 22 sites have been prioritized for immediate conservation action, which includes Thane creek, Purnagad and Achra-Malvan in Maharashtra. While Thane creek is in the list for its woody mangroves and identity as an Important Bird Area, Purnagad is in the prioritized list for its estuarine diversity. Achra-Malvan acts as a corridor to the Malvan Marine Sanctuary and is a sea grass habitat.
“Coastline supports about 30 per cent of human population in India by providing food resources and ecological services. India is one of the world’s largest marine product exporting nations, which is why it is imperative to protect these ecosystems. Over exploitation has pushed several coastal and marine species on the verge of extinction,” said K Sivakumar, senior scientist, WII. “A detailed study on the coastal and marine biodiversity was lacking, and so these habitats and the biodiversity are represented poorly.”
The report enlists Vasai, Thane creek in Thane district, Dharamtar, Kondalika, Murud-Janjira, Shrivardhan in Raigad district, Harihareshwar, Dabhol, Jaigad, Purnagad, Vijayadurgh in Ratnagiri district, Devgad, Angria Bank, Achra-Malvan, Vengurla and Terekhol in Sindhudurg district in the state as ICMBAs.
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Currently, India has 24 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in peninsular India and 106 MPAs in the Andaman & Nicobar islands and Lakshadweep.
Of the 39 mangrove species, 19 are found in Maharashtra, forest officials said. “Having good mangrove cover in the city in Thane and Vasai creek areas provides good pollution control as well as spawning ground for fish, despite the high level of pollution in these creeks. Increased community-based protection of these areas is essential so that we don’t lose out on the diversity in the area, fish production and the visiting bird population. There is great pressure on these areas in the city, which makes such kind of conservation all the more critical,” N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell, said, adding that Kalbadevi estuary in Ratnagiri with its rare mangrove species, Ansure creek, Velas in Sindhudurg and Devbaug area near Karli river, with its dolphins and good mangroves, should be added to the list of ICMBAs.