Published: Friday 31 July 1998

India will get assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for conservation and sustainable management of the coral reef ecosystem off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In this regard, the department of economic affairs, the ministry of environment and forests and UNDP have recently entered into an agreement. UNDP will provide US $345,000 from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for supporting projects linked to national efforts to protect coral reefs in India.

The approach will be to develop coastal zone management plans incorporating sustainable utilisation of biodiversity and providing alternative sustainable livelihood options to the local communities. Specific activities will include the assessment of threats, a comprehensive ecological inventory ensuring stakeholder participation, investigating co-financing options, convergence with other global and regional coral reef conservation initiatives, and the initiation of short-term actions to counteract immediate threats to the coral reef ecosystem.

This is the best prospect for India to conserve and manage large areas of significant coral reef resources. Evidence of the site's global significance is supported by the work undertaken by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which has included the Andaman and Nicobar Island reefs among about 100 countries with conservation-worthy reefs or coral communities.

A survey conducted by the Zoological Survey of India has revealed tremendous pressure on coral reefs in the country due to human activity. Coral mining, sand mining in coastal areas, deforestation and poor land management have caused damage to reef ecosystems.

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