By Rohini Shetkar

Mangroves are coastal woodlands or group of trees that rise from cluster of roots emerging out of the substrate found in tropical coastal areas in between the interface of land and sea. They support a diverse group of organisms – a total of 4011 – that includes 920 floral species and 3091 faunal species largest biodiversity recorded in the world mangrove ecosystem. Of Goa’s total land area of 3,79,200 ha, the Mangrove area is 20,000 ha, study says there is sharp decline in area over the last three decades to 2,200 ha in 2015.
We are blessed to have 16 significant species of Mangroves in Goa out of 80 species found all over the world (late Dr Arvind Untwale – Ex- executive secretary, MSI, Father of Mangroves). Mangrove Society of India (MSI) is on mission to assist other NGO’s, Government Agencies, Research and Government Institutes, organisations and citizens to build up their capacities for protection and conservation of Indian Mangroves.

Importance of mangroves
Mangroves act as a skin of our coastline by helping shoreline communities acting as a natural buffer against storm surges. It has been estimated total fish production of the world mangroves is around one million tons per year for an estimated area of 83,000 kilometre square of open water in mangroves. It serves as breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for most of commercial fishes and crustaceans. It is a source of food, the tender leaves, fruits, seeds and tender vegetable parts of Acrostichum aureum (Akur) are traded and consumed as vegetables in Goa and in other parts of the country. Mangroves play an important role in combating climate change, storing up to five times more carbon than other terrestrial ecosystem.
Mangroves play a critical role by delivering the necessity of life like food, shelter and livelihood. More than 3000 fish species are found in mangrove ecosystems. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the global fish catches are dependent on mangroves.
There are over 2000 mangrove related attractions globally, such as boat tours, broadwalks, kayaking and fishing. It also supports the health and productive of coral reefs and sea grass bed. Economically mangroves are used in flavouring agents, textiles, mats, paper, housing, baskets, boats and tapa cloth. Traditionally mangroves have been exploited for firewood and charcoal.
It has been reported that Mangroves have great potential for medicinal uses. Mangroves also provide opportunities for education, scientific research, eco-tourism and socio-economic studies.

How it has been destroyed
More than 35 per cent of the world’s mangroves are already gone and some of it is cleared for tourist developments, shrimp aquaculture, over harvesting, over fishing, destruction of coral reefs, pollution and the major cause is the climate change.

Conservation of mangroves
Sustainable conservation and restoration of the mangroves should be on our top priority not only for the benefit of people, but for the biodiversity and planet. Environmental monitoring should be done systematically and periodically with the participation of local communities.
It’s time to promote for better awareness and education to prevent developmental activities in mangroves, dumping habits and release of hazardous effluents by informing and educating human communities.

If there are no mangroves, then the sea will have no meaning. It’s like a tree with no roots , for the mangroves are the roots of the sea. Mangrove habitats need our greatest understanding help at this time so we together can help limiting global warming.

(Writer is a member of the Mangrove Society of India)