The CEO of Grow-Trees.com discusses the importance of augmenting mangrove thickets in India’s wetlands
A recent news report informed that non-profit organisation Chesapeake Conservancy’s data science team has developed an Artificial Intelligence deep learning model for mapping wetlands so that they can be protected and conserved. This is a positive development at a time when disruptive human activities have devastated eco-sensitive zones ranging from the Amazonian forests, coral reefs in Australia and wetlands in India.
According to The Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, India has 75 Ramsar sites but as the 2021 report of The Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) points out, we have lost 30 per cent of our wetlands in the last three decades.
“As per National Wetland Inventory and Assessment in 2022, India’s wetlands span around 1,52,600 square kilometers but climate change and disruptive activities have put larger tracts at risk. Restoring them is absolutely necessary for flood attenuation, and to improve water quality, expand carbon sinks and enhance biodiverse habitats rich with flora and fauna,” says environmental expert, and CEO of the social organisation, Grow-Trees.com, Bikrant Tiwary.
Wetlands, he explains, are natural or artificial, permanent or temporary areas of marsh, peatland or static or flowing water (fresh, brackish or salt,) and they are earth’s natural water purifiers, rich in medicinal plants and natural seafood products and can help mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon in their roots and leaves.
He adds, “The Ramsar treaty which was signed in 1971 has underscored the importance of wetlands for sustainable social and economic growth and ecological balance. Imbalance in any form has consequences as in the Haiderpur wetlands in Uttar Pradesh where migratory birds are disappearing due to irresponsible dewatering by farmers.”
Grow-Trees.com’s ‘Trees for Coastal Ecosystems’ attempts to address such issues by striving to plant 50000 mangroves in Kazhuveli, Thalangadu, and Muttukadu wetlands in the Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu. These trees will help prevent soil erosion, improve the quality of soil, and help in groundwater recharge which, in turn, provides for better cultivation of crops.
The organisation has planted trees like Rhizophora Apiculata and Rhizophora Mucronata in the wetland areas to protect the coastal ecosystem from hurricanes and tsunamis by acting as a buffer zone between the land and water. The mangroves also shield the groundwater by preventing saline water from entering the inland.
“Restoration of any ecosystem must have a human and social aspect and every afforestation project must also take into account local populations and work with them for lasting change. They may not understand why an educational website, Smithsonian Ocean, refers to mangroves as blue carbon sinks but once they learn that a healthy environment is necessary for their own well-being, they too will be open to learning earth-friendly agricultural practices and will do their bit to maintain habitats.”