Gujarat only state to increase vital mangrove cover

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New Delhi, Feb 24 (UNI) Gujarat is the only state that has increased its cover of mangrove, the unique tropical forests, since 2003 when the last forest survey was carried out.

The biodiversity rich forests that grow on quiet shorelines and estuaries have been consistently destroyed all over the country due to human activities. Besides, a large part of the cover was wiped out by the tsunami of 2004 that hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Healthy mangrove forests are a key to a healthy marine ecology.

In fact mangrove forests fix more carbon dioxide per unit area than phytoplankton in tropical oceans.

The Forest Survey for 2005, released here says that the mangrove cover in Gujarat increased to 936 sq km in 2005 from 916 in 2003.

In all other states, the area under mangroves has either gone down or remained the same since 2003.

The survey shows that mangrove cover in the country is 4,445 sq km, which is 0.14 per cent of the country's total geographic area.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands lost the maximum area since 2003, mainly because of the 2004 tsunami. Their mangrove cover came down to 637 sq km in 2005 from 658 sq km in 2003.

West Bengal lost marginally, with the mangrove cover coming to 2,118 in 2005 from 2,120 in 2003.

The survey says Gujarat has taken adequate protection measures and plantation to increase its cover.

Mangrove in the country accounts for about five per cent of the world's mangrove vegetation. Sunderbans in West Bengal accounts for a littel less than half of the total area under mangroves in India.

Mangroves are the most productive and biodiverse wetlands on the earth. These provide critical habitat for a divere marine and terrestrial flora and fauna.

They perform a number of vital ecologica functions in nutrient recycle, maintenance of hydrological regime, coastal protection and fish-fauna production, all of which are vital for the sustenance of human and animal life.

Mangroves are important economically too providing firewood, timber, fodder, fruits, medicines, honey etc.

Of late, mangroves have increased in importance owing to their protective role during the tsunami.

UNI NAZ SB RAI1026

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