Nurturing and nourishing mangroves helps fulfil multiple objectives like improving the life of aquatic animals, reducing poverty and hunger, enhancing the quality of life of coastal communities etc. The importance of restoration and protection of mangroves is amply reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (which focuses on sustainably governing our oceans and coasts and recognises mangroves’ immense value to local communities). But restoring mangrove forests also supports the achievement of many other SDGs like:
- Eliminating poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and SDG 2),
- Ensuring livelihoods and economic growth (SDG 8),
- Taking actions against climate change impacts (SDG 13) and
- Halting biodiversity loss (SDG 15).
They do so in numerous ways. The mangroves have very rich species diversity. For example, India’s mangroves are home to 4,011 species (the highest in the world). The mangroves give sufficient and nutritious food to local coastal communities. This becomes particularly useful to poor and vulnerable populations. Various income-generating opportunities are offered by mangroves. The sustainable harvest of mangrove products meant for market sales present business opportunities for local communities. This benefits women, native tribes, farmers, pastoralists etc. These local income opportunities can be enhanced through the creation of management and planning jobs involved in restoration projects. Mangrove forests are important in climate management as they are “carbon-rich protective buffer zones between land and sea”. The restoration of mangrove forests is directly related to goals which are in sync with climate adaptation and mitigation. The mangroves should be restored in order to promote the resilience of coastal communities from various climate-induced threats. It is held that “mangrove restoration sites can also be strategically placed to contribute to upgrading infrastructure with greater adoption of environmentally sound technologies through applying infrastructures for coastal protection”. In this way, the resilience of coastal communities can be magnified by minimizing their exposure to climate-induced environmental shocks and disasters. It has been acknowledged time and again that mangroves are extremely “efficient carbon sinks”. Hence, well-calibrated actions meant for mangrove restoration efforts help in adapting to adverse impacts of climate change. Various scientific studies have attested the importance of restoration of mangroves in smart climate management. There is a need for an integrated approach to mangrove restoration. By this approach the local coastal communities can emerge as participatory stakeholders in the process of mangrove restoration. The local people can have sustainable development lifestyles in harmony with nature and can also help the government in promoting sustainable tourism. This will also enhance eco-friendly business opportunities for local communities in multiple ways.
- In 1976, the National Mangrove Committee was set up under the Environment Ministry.
- In 1979 it recommended focus on areas like mapping of mangroves using remote sensing, land surveys, etc., to determine degradation rate, assessing sites for establishing reserve forests, conservation program, afforestation, R&D etc.
- Several legislations like Environment (Protection) Act, Indian Forest Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act, etc. are sources of protection (though mangroves are not specifically mentioned in all of these).
- In 2018, the High Court called the destruction of mangroves an offence to the fundamental rights of the citizens under article 21 of the Constitution. Since then, the government has been undertaking efforts to conserve the mangroves.
- In 2018, India along with 7 other countries of the Bay of Bengal region came together to protect the mangroves under the BOBLME (Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem) project. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation leads this project. The GEF (Global Environment Facility) approved a grant of 15 million USD for this project.