State: Maharashtra / Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Site: Konkan Coast / Andaman and Nicobar Islands
What is your personal relation to the natural coastal or marine site you represent?
I have always been fascinated by the role of disturbance and change in shaping marine ecosystems. I like underwater life for aesthetic reasons. I am keenly interested in understanding the role that local communities and institutions play, and if these institutions can be co-opted in cooperative conservation efforts. To follow my interest and from 2006-08, I worked on a project, aimed at understanding the impacts of the 2004 tsunami on coral reefs. During this study, I had the opportunity to live and interact with indigenous communities of the Nicobar Islands, as my work entailed extended stays on remote islands. While living amongst the islanders, I had wide-ranging discussions on marine issues, which brought new insights into my understanding of resource overnance. I explored this further by documenting different resource-use practices, fishers’ knowledge in relation to marine tenure, and the recent changes in these practices to explore past and present aspects of marine-resource utilisation and assessed biological efficacy of traditionally managed areas. In 2011, I carried out a detailed survey of the resilience potential of the Nicobar reefs to global climate change and I am currently in the process of analysing the extensive data-set.
What are the specific problems and threats of your natural coastal or marine site?
The Andaman and Nicobar Island’s were adversely affected by the catastrophe of the 2004 tsunami and the ENSO event of the year 2010. Impact studies revealed that the damage was significant, with significant changes to the structural framework of the reef, and potential population changes in resources important to human communities. Few indigenous tribes and settlers from mainland India inhabit islands. The islanders are highly dependent on marine resources for food and security. The high economic value, increasing demand from developed countries puts further pressure on the harvest of these species and as the trade in the islands is carried out through informal pathways, its true extent is seldom recorded. Therefore, though illegal trade of marine species is highly prevalent, little information exists from the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Further, some species such as sea cucumbers, sharks and seashells face the additional pressure of over-exploitation from illegal foreign fishing boats and poachers (Ref: Ministry Of Environment and Forests, http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/report-on-andaman-and-nicobar-islandspoaching- issue.pdf). Besides natural catastrophes, the marine system is facing a severe problem from the lack of management e.g. absence of waste disposal plan, run-off of sediment into the sea, inefficiency in managing marine protected areas, indiscriminate fishing etc.
Why do you think is it important to safeguard your natural coastal or marine site?
The marine system of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago are among the most diverse reef areas of the Indian subcontinent, supporting variety of marine flora and fauna. Some marine life is endemic to the islands. Global climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of natural catastrophes, and the recent tsunami and the bleaching event could be the consequence of global climate change, which is considered to be greatest threat to marine life. Further, continued growth of human populations and lack of management have resulted in unsustainable exploitation of marine resources, exacerbated by climate change, ocean acidification, and other anthropogenic environmental impacts. If this continues, in few years there will be significant amount of biodiversity-loss in the islands and could have flow-on consequences from fish to humans and therefore I feel it is important to safeguard marine islands marine life. While climate itself may not be possible to manage at regionally meaningful scales. According to me, understanding the factors that drive the inherent buffer capacity of reefs and reducing anthropogenic impact on the marine system by monitoring, regulation and implementation of law could help in conservation of marine biodiversity in the islands.