Park for mariners

Friday 31 October 2008

Navy training in protected area

THE marine national park and sanctuary in Gujarat may now have the Indian Navy in its territory. The National Board for Wildlife gave the Navy the permission to build a training facility, part of which will be on 0.41 hectare of the sanctuary. The Central Empowered Committee, a Supreme Court-appointed body to monitor forest-related cases, has received the proposal and is yet to take a decision on the case.

A year ago, the wildlife board had rejected the proposal on the premise that the project was not site-specific and that it would damage the marine forests. It had asked the Navy to look for an alternative site. The sanctuary, set up in 1980, is in the inter-tidal zone along the Jamnagar coasts and islands in the Gulf of Kutch. It supports a diversity of habitats (including 42 islands), coral reefs and mangroves.

The Indian Navy submitted the proposal again and said that they needed just 0.41 ha of the sanctuary for storage and boat launching facilities for trainees. The state government recommended the proposal on the condition that it should not adversely affect the marine life and mangroves. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests also gave its "in principle" approval for the facility. The National Board for Wildlife then approved it in August 2008.

Conservationists have sounded out the alarm and fear that the state government may approve a new port project inside the protected area. "The park was the first in India for the protection of marine life. Now the coastline is threatened by oil companies and ports," said Dishant Parasharya, a researcher with the Bombay Natural History Society.

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