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Green growth was featured as a key priority in the Union Budget 2023-24 with a focused allocation for augmenting mangrove vegetation as important carbon reservoirs. Along with other initiatives such as Green credit programme, PM-PRANAM, Gobardhan Scheme and Amrit Darohar, the budget makes way for Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline, Habitat and Tangible Incomes or the MISHTI Scheme to be launched along the coastline and salt pan lands of India. 

Recently, India joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) during the COP27 of the UNFCCC to spread awareness concerning the role of mangroves in tackling climate change. In this regard, given the importance of mangroves as a foundational species in coastal and marine ecosystems, and a critical link in disaster risk management, the MISHTI scheme would be change-inducing and also accelerate the pace of mangrove conservation in India. However, there are several drawbacks for the scheme to make it a complete success.

India which hosts 3.3% of world’s mangrove vegetation and is home to Sunderbans in West Bengal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the investment in reinvigorating mangroves is a step in the right direction.

Mangrove species offer diverse ecosystem services in the zones of their existence. Apart from that, they also offer solutions to sea level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges. Mangroves also have significant influence on the climate, with high carbon sequestration capacity.  Besides, they also play a key role in supporting tourism, providing wood for fuel and construction along with a rich supply of fish, crabs, and shellfish. Apart from this, Mangroves have been involved in the cycle of carbon credit. Most of the East African countries try to make cash out of selling carbon credits by way of growing mangroves. Although India’s Mangrove forest cover registered a marginal increase by 17 sq km (State of Forest report 2021), several man made and natural threats still persist. 

The many specifics left to be fleshed out in order for the scheme to achieve its objectives could be the following.

Primarily, the funding of the scheme has been clubbed with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) which does not give any fixed allocation to MISHTI scheme alone.

Also, under the current budget, the allocation of funds for MGNREGA was 25% lower than the previous year. Apart from this, there can be a chance of overlapping the responsibilities among both CAMPA and MGNREGA since it is not divided properly under the scheme. 

Even though experts have hailed the scheme as an effort to combat the climate crisis there are concerns on the need for its scientific implementation. Existing methods like Innovative Restoration Technique, which has the potential to restore declining mangroves could be given more focus. This is in line with the existing threats mangroves possess due to Aquaculture, frequent use of chemical fertilisers and pollutants arising out of coastal development. 

Since the scheme largely focuses on afforestation methods, the threats to the existing mangroves cannot be neglected.

Eco-tourism and a balanced approach to development along the eco-sensitive zones should be a priority. In the year 2020, there were allegations that Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPT) cleared 7000 mangroves for port expansion. Also the acts of irresponsible tourists act as a path to the destruction of existing mangroves gradually.

Apart from this, the Institutional Mechanism which underlies in protecting mangroves in India is facing several challenges including jurisdictional problems, shortage of government staff and other infrastructure. Currently, the responsibility lies in the hands of the forest department of each state.

A more proactive approach would be to decentralise the existing system which includes non-government stakeholder as well as local community involvement.

In particular, there have been successful mangrove restoration models in Kachchh district of Gujarat with a collaborative effort between government agencies, private stakeholders and local communities.

Thus, the scheme could be a big boost to Disaster Management of India, if implemented in a proper way. With many of the states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal lying on the east coast of India being vulnerable to natural calamities originating from sea, the scheme has the potential to take forward the state’s capability in preparing against disasters. Halting industrial developments in mangrove areas, regulating population along the mangrove coasts, involving private stakeholders and local communities on conserving mangroves  could be some measures implemented along with the new scheme to make the conservation efforts more fruitful.

This article was first published in Hindustantimes.com

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

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Neelima completed her Post Graduation in MA Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education. While pursuing her masters she has done her 3 months Internship from the Middle East Institute, New Delhi. After completion of the course she worked for 2 months as IR project Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi. She is passionate about research and writing in the field of International Relations. Her Interest areas include West Asia, Indo-pacific, Multilateralism, Global and National Security.

Neelima A
Neelima A
Neelima completed her Post Graduation in MA Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education. While pursuing her masters she has done her 3 months Internship from the Middle East Institute, New Delhi. After completion of the course she worked for 2 months as IR project Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi. She is passionate about research and writing in the field of International Relations. Her Interest areas include West Asia, Indo-pacific, Multilateralism, Global and National Security.

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