Typically, in many tropical and sub-tropical coastal ecosystem of mangrove forest is vital for supplying many timber and non-timber products to the coastal dwellers (Iftekhar, 2008). Mitigation measures are being taken in several countries to restore the ongoing degradation of mangrove forest (Iftekhar, 2008). However, there are very few mangrove management strategies planned and adopted in South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which are unique in terms of extent, variability and biodiversity (Iftekhar, 2008). Mangroves are considered to be breeding sites for birds, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, reptiles and mammals; a renewable source of wood; accumulation sites for sediment, contaminants, carbon and nutrients in the ecosystem; and offer protection against coastal erosion and tsunami (Swain, Rao, & Pattanaik 2009). The research in the mangrove forest provides sufficient evidence for its protection towards human occupations and freshwater resources (Tanaji et.al, 2007). The Sundarbans, world’s largest mangrove ecosystem is present in this part of the world (Tanaji et.al, 2007). This region is most vulnerable to catastrophic events such as tropical cyclones and tsunami and mangrove forest acts as a buffer and barrier to the coastal regions (Tanaji et.al, 2007). These South Asian countries are similar in approach for the strategic management of mangrove forest due to their similarity in geographical character (Iftekhar, 2008).
South Asian countries hold the most extensive area covered by mangrove forests are present in Bangladesh (4,760 sq km), followed by India (4,350 sq km) and Sri Lanka (88 sq km) covering as much as 6% of the global mangrove coverage (Iftekhar, 2008). The famous Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem covers almost 10,000 Sq Km and spreads across Bangladesh and India (Iftekhar, 2008). In the last four decades, there has been a significant impact on mangrove forest cover with over 60-80% losses observed (Swain, Rao, & Pattanaik 2009). These losses are due to ever-increasing populations and the needs of the livelihood which arise out of it (Tanaji et.al, 2007). The emission of greenhouse gases and global warming are some of the other factors which are responsible for the losses in mangrove forests, which in turn, adversely affect marine habitat (Tanaji et.al, 2007).
In the northeast and south-east coast of India, the Cyclones are a common phenomenon along the east coast of India and the Sundarbans in August to November (Tanaji et.al, 2007). In 2004 a massive tsunami caused enormous damage to the mangrove forests of Andaman and Nicobar group of islands (Tanaji et.al, 2007). In response to this disaster under United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), a rapid ecological assessment was done recommending medium to the long-term reconstruction of defensive coastal ecosystems and conservation of mangrove forests (Sanford, 2009). They also identified that a buffer zone of 20-30m mangrove forests would absorb a considerable amount of wave energy from the tsunami and considered as an effective mitigation measure to restore mangrove forests (Sanford, 2009). Furthermore, Mangroves are vulnerable to cattle grazing, particularly in arid zones like in the Gulf of Kutchchh and the Indus delta, and as a result, these species of mangroves have low productivity and are dwarf (Tanaji et.al, 2007). Another type of commonly known attack is Oysters which feed on soft tissues of stem, trunk and roots. However, most of the mangrove species survive pest and insect attack (Tanaji et.al, 2007). Deterioration of the mangrove forests are also because of the manmade activities such as urbanisation agricultural activities (e.g., paddy, coconut, aquaculture, salt pans); industrial activities; constructions of jetties and ports; dumping of waste, material, and garbage; effluent release (pollution); mining; deforestation (construction, fuel); fodder and leasing area for grazing purpose; and reduction or increase of the quantum of freshwater by dam constructions or diverting the flows, respectively (Tanaji et.al, 2007).
In response to this issue, national committees’ establishment by the governments became prominent for the respective countries. They became responsible for coordinating, educating, training, research and management activities relevant to these habitats (Tanaji et.al, 2007). They are responsible for protecting parks, sanctuaries, germplasm centres, and nature reserves, that may have an adverse effect on mangrove forests if not protected (Tanaji et.al, 2007). Environment impact assessment is made compulsory before initiating any project that may substantially influence existing mangrove forests (Tanaji et.al, 2007). Policy for compulsory afforestation has been implemented by the organisations and industries which are directly or indirectly responsible for any damage that may have caused due to their activities (Tanaji et.al, 2007). Training and awareness initiatives are carried out in urban and rural areas by the government to educate masses about the risks involved and vulnerability for mangrove forests and the ecosystem (Tanaji et.al, 2007). With such participation of locals and stakeholders, it has been made possible to conserve mangrove forests to quite an extent (Tanaji et.al, 2007).
Unfortunately, no efforts have been made to produce an evidence-based study to establish set planning practices for the protection of mangrove forests and marine ecosystem (Kaly and Jones, 1998). The research needs to focus on the extent and the mechanism in which enables restoration of the mangrove forests from an ecosystem perspective. Thus, the policy requires long term monitoring to determine how quickly and efficiently, we would be able to restore the mangrove forests (Kaly and Jones, 1998).
Swain, P., Rao, N., & Pattanaik, C. (2009). Mangrove forest cover of Visakhapatnam coast is under threat. Current Science, 97(8), 1112-1113. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.library.britishcouncil.org.in:2048/stable/24111947
Iftekhar, M. (2008). An overview of mangrove management strategies in three South Asian countries: Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. The International Forestry Review, 10(1), 38-51. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.library.britishcouncil.org.in:2048/stable/43739699
Sanford, M. (2009). Valuating Mangrove Ecosystems as Coastal Protection in Post-Tsunami South Asia. Natural Areas Journal,29(1), 91-95. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.library.britishcouncil.org.in:2048/stable/43914108
Tanaji G. Jagtap, & Vinod L. Nagle. (2007). Response and Adaptability of Mangrove Habitats from the Indian Subcontinent to Changing Climate. Ambio, 36(4), 328-334. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.library.britishcouncil.org.in:2048/stable/4315835
Kaly, U., & Jones, G. (1998). Mangrove Restoration: A Potential Tool for Coastal Management in Tropical Developing Countries. Ambio, 27(8), 656-661. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.library.britishcouncil.org.in:2048/stable/4314812