While the pandemic has brought enumerable activities to an abrupt standstill, deforestation of Kerala’s mangroves is not one of them.
Mangroves are trees and shrubs that thrive on saltwater coasts and can withstand the ebb and flow of the tide. Supporting a luxuriant biodiversity, these vital components of the ecosystem are havens to threatened terrestrial and aquatic organisms and are a significant source of fodder and medicines, among other things.
Despite the many advantages offered by them, the mangroves of the Kannur district of Kerala are treated miserably. With deforestation belittling their importance and shrinking their numbers, humans are taking another step into murky waters.
45% of Kerala’s total mangrove forest cover is bountifully concentrated in the Kannur district of Kerala. However, 90% of these forests are privately owned and face the risk of getting wiped off. Paddy cultivation and shrimp farming are inducing individuals to axe privately-owned mangroves, threaten the lives of countless lifeforms and destabilise various waterbodies. Even the fact that the mangroves are protected by law cannot deter their inevitable fate with the reins being in our hands.
Over seventy-thousand hectares of mangrove forests have been reduced to a mere 1750 hectares through the annals of Kerala’s history. Replacing mangrove forests with coconut plantations or other agricultural land, real estate development, increasing populations, etc. – all these have drastically reduced the blanket of mangroves that once shrouded the southern state.
Recognizing the significance of mangroves, awareness campaigns have been launched and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) has proposed the establishment of an international centre on mangrove research. More of these highly appreciable measures are the need of the hour to protect the last standing mangroves of Kerala from ruin.