The Hindu , 14 June 2006

Maintain balance between society, ecology while rebuilding tsunami-hit areas: Santhanam

CHENNAI: In rebuilding affected coastal communities post tsunami, it is essential to maintain the fine balance between society and ecology, R. Santhanam, Relief Commissioner, said at a workshop on `Post Tsunami Coastal Protection Projects,' here, on Monday.

Poverty was the key constraint for management options in reaching conservation goals, he added. Natural mangrove forests and coral reefs have been cleared for settlements, prawn farms and tourism to help the local economy. Studies had revealed that these essential parts of the coastal ecology all over the world were under threat and the twin depletion of mangroves and reefs had become a global phenomenon. In India, the cover had reduced by at least 30 per cent, he said.

The reduction of these natural formations would lead to reduced fish catch and therefore malnutrition, loss of tourism revenue, increased storm surges and erosion of the sea coast.

The workshop was organised by the Tsunami Rehabilitation Network and focussed on the ecological aspects of development of tsunami-hit communities. K.S.Neelakantan, director, Environment, said an integrated coastal zone management plan was essential to achieve economic prosperity without sacrificing ecological security.

The plan, which would be implemented with the aid of the World Bank, will require the co-operation of government agencies, local bodies and coastal communities. The M.S.Swaminathan Committee, constituted in 2004, to review the CRZ notification of 1991 had recommended that the vulnerability of the coast be mapped after consideration of seven parameters including elevation, geology, geomorphology, tidal ranges and wave heights. Campaigns will be held to disseminate information about the ICZMP among local communities, and NGOs will also be involved in its implementation. The workshop was aimed at arriving at a better understanding of the damage caused by various natural processes including the tsunami; options available for coastal protection, their pros and cons; the plans of the state under the World Bank scheme implemented by the Department of Environment.