Saving a reserve

Published: Thursday 15 January 1998

A project to develop a biosphere management programme for the Gulf of Mannar biosphere reserve has been planned by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (mssrf). Estimated to cost us $6-8 million, the project will be aided by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme.

A World Resources Report for 1996 had warned that the Gulf of Mannar reserve, along with five others stood a high risk of degradation. Trawler fishing and other activities in the Gulf have caused extensive damage to the reserve. The mssrf project document identifies six specific threats to the reserve -- rapid industrialisation, over-exploitation and intensive trawling, proposal to build the Sethusamudram canal, poaching of threatened species, unauthorised humans settlement and proposed aquaculture. The Mannar reserve is a group of 21 small islands that cover about 10,500 sq km in the Bay of Bengal with a coastal area of 100 km. Ecologically, the biosphere is a combination of three different ecosystems -- mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs. It supports over 3,600 species of plants and animals including a few rare ones.

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