Mangrove graves

Published: Wednesday 15 March 1995

-- Aggressive shrimp farming is slowly breaking down the last ecological barrier against tidal waves and cyclonic gales in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Rapacious aquafarmers are marauding the rich mangroves for farming shrimp. The bunds and embankments they illegally set up are destroying these forests all along the coasts by the East Godavari, Krishna and Guntur districts.

The Andhra Pradesh forest department is fighting a losing battle against these encroachers. At stake are the 52,004 ha of mangrove forests.

Confrontation between the shrimp farmers and forest officials has been reduced to a comic game. Bunds destroyed by foresters are repaired as soon as they leave. The casualty: the Rhizophora mucronata mangrove, known for the protective maze it creates with its stilt roots between the sea and the mainland. The only course left, say officials, is to book cases which will probably never see the offenders prosecuted.

Laments K Bayapu, head of the department of Environmental Sciences in Nagarjuna University, who has studied the mangroves on the Andhra Pradesh coast, "Not much mangrove vegetation is left. If this denudation continues, then even the aquaculture farmers will also lose out, as all factors in this ecosystem are delicately balanced."

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