On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a new scheme called MISHTI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes) in the Union Budget 2023-24. The scheme aims to promote mangrove conservation and provide tangible benefits to the local communities living in these areas.
- The primary goal of the MISTHI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes) Scheme is to safeguard and rejuvenate mangrove habitats along the Indian coastline while simultaneously enhancing the socio-economic status of communities living in close proximity.
- Implementing Ministry – Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- The Union Government will cover 80% of the project cost, while the State Governments will contribute the remaining 20%.
- According to the Budget, MISHTI will be put into action through cooperation between different sources such as MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) Fund, and others.
- Experts who have worked on mangrove plantations suggest that this initiative will require significant efforts to work closely with local communities.
- The survival rate of mangrove seeds is 50%, and saplings have a survival rate of about 60%. It takes approximately three years for a new plant to take root and stabilize.
- Simply planting trees once under a contract-based system may not work unless the local communities take responsibility for nurturing the forests.
- Mangroves are types of plants that grow in salty water in tropical and subtropical regions where the land meets the sea.
- They provide a vital ecosystem by providing food for small fish, crabs and shrimp, which supports local fishermen and their livelihoods.
- Mangrove forests are also important in the fight against climate change as they absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- They also serve as a barrier to protect coastal areas from natural disasters and are home to a variety of unique and important species of plants and animals.
- Mangrove forests grow in areas with intertidal flow and where sediments are present for trees to take root.
- The biggest threat to the mangrove ecosystem is aquaculture or fisheries along the coast that obstruct tidal flow.
- In the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in India, clearing of mangroves for fisheries has been reported.
- Land reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture and industrial activities has occurred in areas under the Coastal Regulation Zone along the country’s coastline.
- To restore and maintain mangrove forests, it is essential to restore the land and allow intertidal flow.
Mangroves in India
- According to the ‘State of World Mangroves 2022’ report by the Global Mangrove Alliance, the total mangrove cover of the world is 14.7 million hectares.
- South Asia has a large amount of mangroves, with Indonesia hosting about 20% of the world’s total. India, on the other hand, has only around 3% of South Asia’s mangrove population.
- India has around 0.49 million hectares of mangroves, distributed across nine States and three Union Territories, with West Bengal having the highest mangrove cover.
- The Indian State of Forest Report (IFSR) 2021 also reveals that the mangrove cover in India has increased from 4,046 sq km in 1987 to 4,992 sq km in 2021.
- However, like many other countries, the mangrove ecosystem in India is facing constant pressure due to the increasing population in coastal areas and the rising demand for land, timber, fodder, fuel-wood, and other non-wood forest products like fisheries.
Fight Against Climate Change
- The ‘State of World Mangroves 2022’ report highlights that mangroves store up to four times more carbon than some other ecosystems.
- The report also warns that losing even 1% of remaining mangroves could lead to a loss of 0.23 gigatons of CO2, which is equivalent to over 520 million barrels of oil.
- The Indian government’s MISHTI initiative is aligned with the country’s commitment to creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 through afforestation and tree cover.
- India has joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, an initiative launched at COP27, which aims to raise global awareness about the role of mangroves in mitigating climate change.
Mangrove Alliance for Climate
- The Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) was launched at the 27th session of Conference of Parties (COP27) UN climate summit, with India as a partner.
- The initiative is led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indonesia and includes India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan, and Spain.
- The aim of MAC is to spread awareness globally about the role of mangroves in mitigating global warming and their potential as a solution for climate change.
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