Undersea Tunnel to Save Mangroves

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    In Context

    • A seven-km undersea tunnel will be constructed for the bullet train project to save mangrove forests in Maharashtra.

    More about the news

    • About:
      • A seven-km undersea tunnel will be constructed for the bullet train project in a bid to save mangrove forests in Maharashtra’s Thane creek
        • The tunnel will be a single tube tunnel to accommodate both up and down tracks.
    • Significance:
      • The tunnel construction is aimed towards conserving nearly 12 hectares of mangroves in the creek.
      • The tunnel will ensure the protection of the bird sanctuary and mangroves around Thane creek. 
    • Challenges:
      • The undersea tunnel will escalate the construction cost of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor project’s 21-km long stretch from Bandra Kurla Complex Station to Shilphata, from ?100 crores to ?10,000 crores.

    Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (MAHSR)

    • MAHSR is an under-construction high-speed rail line connecting India’s economic hub Mumbai with the city of Ahmedabad.
    • The total length of the corridor is 508 km, of which 156 km of construction will be in Maharashtra. 
      • It is slated to cut the shuttle time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad from over 6 hours to between 2 and 2.5 hours. 

    More about Mangroves

    • About:
      • Mangroves are small trees and shrubs which grow along the coastlines. 
      • These trees thrive in salty water and form unique forests on the edge of land and the sea. 
      • They also grow in swamps
    • Features:
      • These forests have the ability to store up to 10 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests. 
      • Mangrove forests can survive extreme weather conditions and require low oxygen levels to survive.
    • Distribution:
      • Globally:
        • Mangroves are distributed in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world and are found in 123 countries.
        • Asia has the largest coverage of the world’s mangroves, followed by Africa, North and Central America, Oceania and South America. Approximately 75% of the world’s mangrove forests are found in just 15 countries.
      • India:
        • India contributes to nearly half of the total mangrove cover in South Asia. 
        • West Bengal has the highest percentage of mangrove cover in India. Sundarbans in West Bengal is the largest mangrove forest in the world.
        • It is followed by Gujarat and Andaman, and Nicobar islands. 
        • Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala too have mangrove.

    Significance of Mangrove

    • Natural defence: 
      • With notable adaptive features, mangroves are natural armed forces of tropical and subtropical nations. 
      • Mangrove thickets maintain water quality by filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land.
    • Checking Global Temperature: 
      • Mangrove’s unique ability to capture and store carbon is increasingly catching the attention of the world, which is desperately looking for ways to keep global temperature in check.
    • Fighting against Climate Change: 
      • They are the best option to fight against consequences of climate change such as sea level rise and increasing frequency of natural calamities like cyclones and storm surges.
    • Maintaining ecology:
      • Mangrove ecosystems are home to a variety of fish. 
      • Mangroves are also important resources for timber and fuelwood, when collected sustainably.

    Major Threats

    • Developmental projects:
      • Coastal development, including the construction of shrimp farms, hotels, and other structures, is the primary threat to mangroves.
    • Conversion of land:
      • Mangrove forests are cleared to make room for agricultural land and human settlements.
    • Exploitation:
      • In India’s Sunderbans, salinisation, population pressure, and overexploitation are the primary threats to mangroves and the area’s biodiversity.
    • Indirect threats:
      • Indirect threats to mangroves include change in sedimentation rates and patterns, rising sea levels, and increase in pollutants, and these are often exacerbated by human actions.
    • Scientists estimate that at least one-third of all mangrove forests have been lost during the last few decades.

    Government’s initiatives for Mangroves protection

    • Conservation and Management of Mangroves and Coral Reefs:
      • The promotional measures are being implemented through a Central Sector Scheme under the National Coastal Mission Programme on ‘Conservation and Management of Mangroves and Coral Reefs’. 
      • Under this programme, the annual Management Action Plan (MAP) for the conservation and management of mangroves is formulated and implemented in all the coastal States and Union Territories.
    • Magical Mangroves campaign: 
      • The World Wide Fund for Nature, (WWF), India has enjoined citizens in nine states, which include Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal and Karnataka on mangrove conservation through the Magical Mangroves campaign
    • Scheme for Conservation & Management of Mangroves: 
      • The Government under Centrally sponsored scheme for conservation & Management of Mangroves, extends assistance to Coastal State/UTs for implementation of action plans including survey and demarcation, alternation and supplementary livelihood, protection measures and education and awareness activities.
    • MISHTI:
      • The Union Budget for 2023-24 announced an initiative for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on salt pan lands, under MISHTI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes).

    MISHTI will be implemented through convergence between the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) Fund and other sources.