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Coastal Commons in India: Role and Importance



  Apr 18, 2024

Coastal Commons in India: Role and Importance



1. What are coastal commons?

Coastal commons refer to natural areas along coastlines that are accessible and beneficial to local communities. These areas include diverse ecosystems like sandy shores, mangroves, mudflats, and salt marshes. Coastal commons are important for the livelihoods of communities, particularly those involved in fishing and other marine-related activities.

2. How do coastal commons support local livelihoods?

Coastal commons provide critical resources and spaces for various activities. In traditional fishing communities in India, these areas are used for docking boats, drying fish, and even social and cultural gatherings. The natural resources found in coastal commons, such as fish and other marine life, support the economic activities of local communities.

3. What ecological benefits do coastal commons offer?

Coastal commons play a crucial role in biodiversity conservation, acting as habitats for various species. They also protect coastlines from erosion and extreme weather events, serve as carbon sinks, and help maintain water quality. These ecological benefits are vital for environmental health and combatting climate change.

4. What challenges do coastal commons face?

Coastal commons are under threat from overfishing, pollution, climate change, and development projects that lead to habitat destruction. These challenges threaten the sustainability of the ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. Governance and management of these areas are complex due to their dynamic nature and the diverse interests involved.

India

Coastal commons in India encompass a variety of ecologically rich and culturally important areas that serve multiple functions for local communities. Here are some prominent examples of coastal commons across different regions of India, highlighting their uses and the challenges they face:

1. Sundarbans, West Bengal

Description: The Sundarbans, located in the delta region of West Bengal, is the largest mangrove forest in the world. This region is a critical habitat for numerous species, including the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.

Use: The Sundarbans support the livelihoods of many local communities through fishing, honey collection, and ecotourism.

Challenges: The area faces severe threats from rising sea levels due to climate change, increased cyclonic activities, and human encroachment which leads to habitat degradation.

2. Chilika Lake, Odisha

Description: Chilika Lake is Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon and a Ramsar wetland site, known for its fishery resources and rich biodiversity, including numerous migratory birds.

Use: It supports an extensive fishing community and is a hotspot for bird watching and ecotourism.

Challenges: Issues like siltation, reduction in salinity, and pollution threaten the lake’s biodiversity. Efforts for sustainable management and conservation are ongoing.

3. Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu

Description: The Gulf of Mannar is noted for its biologically rich marine national park, which includes a chain of 21 islands and adjacent coral reefs.

Use: The area is crucial for traditional fishing practices, pearl diving, and also supports local handicrafts based on shell crafts.

Challenges: Coral mining, destructive fishing practices, and pollution from industrial and urban waste are major concerns affecting the health of marine ecosystems here.

4. Vembanad Lake, Kerala

Description: Vembanad Lake is India’s longest lake and is famous for its backwaters in Kerala. The lake is vital for wetland ecosystems which include extensive mangrove areas.

Use: It is crucial for rice cultivation, inland navigation, fishing, and tourism, particularly houseboat cruises.

Challenges: Environmental issues such as land reclamation, pollution, and intensive aquaculture have led to ecological imbalance in the lake.

5. Banni Grasslands, Gujarat

Description: Located in the Kachchh district, the Banni Grasslands are known for their unique ecosystem. Though not coastal in the traditional sense, they are affected by salinity due to proximity to the coast.

Use: The grasslands support pastoral communities, handicraft industries, and are rich in biodiversity.

Challenges: Invasion by Prosopis juliflora (an alien invasive species), overgrazing, and erratic rainfall patterns due to climate change are major challenges.

These examples from different parts of India highlight the diverse functions and significant challenges of coastal commons. Effective management and conservation strategies are crucial to sustain these ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.


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