The 500 km long coastline between Mumbai and Goa on west coast is known as the Konkan region. The landscape of the Konkan region has been subject to changes due to anthropogenic activities like industrialization, urbanization, tourism and construction of roads and railways. Overexploitation (activities like fishing), inflow of industrial effluents, toxic materials, hot water flows are detrimental to marine life. Besides, these developmental activities are not beneficial to the local inhabitants. Coasts are an important link between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and hence need to be conserved. The conservation strategy should work towards the reconciliation of interests of biodiversity and local people.
- To assess the current status of coastal habitat and biodiversity on the coastline between Mumbai and Goa
- To determine biodiversity hotspots on this coastline
- To investigate the degree of dependence of the local communities on the biodiversity for their living
- To prepare a plan for conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable utilization for the benefit of the local population and traditional communities.
- Total 92 beaches on the coastline between Mumbai and Goa were surveyed from October 1996 to February 1998.
- Several parameters were identified to evaluate the quality of beaches – length and breadth of beaches, dune vegetation, protective vegetation, the variety and extent of the inter-tidal flora and fauna and the variety and number of nesting and wintering avifauna.
- The quality of mangroves was assessed on the basis of length and breadth of the patch, floral diversity, density of cover and height of trees.
- Biodiversity hotspots were identified based on parameters like the extent and variety of dune vegetation, the extent and variety of algal cover, the presence of a nest of the White-bellied Sea Eagle, the evidence of nesting of marine turtles (endangered animals) and the variety and abundance of marine animals of the inter-tidal zone. Scores were allotted to beaches on the basis of the status of these parameters.
- A survey was carried out among the fishermen residing along the coast in the stretch between Bankot and Malvan. The investigation included their harvesting methods of the natural resources around them, the way they meet their basic demands, their practices and traditions for protection and conservation of biodiversity.
- A proposal was prepared for biodiversity conservation taking participation of local people into account.
- Biodiversity: 50 varieties of algae, 27 species of mangroves and their associates, about 30 types of marine animals were recorded on the sandy and rocky beaches separately, 50? species of birds were noted on this stretch of coastline. Over 35 nests of the White-bellied Sea Eagle were seen. Over 25 beaches were noted where evidence of nesting of marine turtles was found.
- Biodiversity hotspots: The beach of Murud scored first and those of Guhagar and Ratnagiri in Ratnagiri district scored second among sandy beaches. The beaches of Ladghar-Burondi, Sandkhol and Bhudhal in Ratnagiri district scored highest and the beaches Murud-Janjira in Raigad district and that of Kolewadi in Sindhudurg district scored second highest among rocky beaches. Additional parameters like nearness of source of freshwater stream, nearness of mangroves and forest, exposure and shelter from wave direct wave action were considered. On the basis of these the Achra and Deogad beaches in Sindhudurg district scored highest among sandy beaches followed by Ladghar-Burondi from Ratnagiri district.
- Local communities: Among the fishermen, though the main occupation was fishing, buying and selling of fish, coconut and other produce, cattle herding and unskilled labor provided additional source of income. Most were dependent on the surrounding forest for fuelwood while some used kerosene as fuel. The wood required for boat construction was also obtained from the forest. But now there was scarcity of these tree species in the forest and wood had to be imported. Traditions and customs like using only traditional gear for fishing, no fishing during the spawning season of fish, closure of fishing and no consumption of fish during festivals, protection of sacred groves and fine and punishment to those who break the tradition etc. help to conserve marine life.
- A plan was proposed to create 5 biosphere reserves and 12 areas of special scientific interest for biodiversity conservation. Each reserve will be demarcated carefully and the total area of each reserve will have zones with core, restricted use and multiple use areas. Management plan should be formed in consultation with the local people and local NGOs.
- The identification of habitats that sustain biodiversity should be identified. Biodiversity is dependent on ecological processes supported by marine, estuarine and terrestrial factors. The transport of sediment and nutrients by streams from mountains to sea is a continuous process. It is therefore suggested that the conservation of coastal biodiversity should start from the restoration of streams and forests on the mountains followed by rejuvenation of creeks and estuaries and then the actual coastline.
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