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Daring to Restore- Coral Reef Recovery in Mithapur
Published by S. Subburaman, S. Gautham, Dhiresh Joshi, M. Venkatesh, B.M Praveen Kumar, Manoj Matwal, R. D Kamboj, M.V.M Wafar, Rahul Kaul, B. C Chaudhury , 24 Sep 2014
A report on WTI's collaborative efforts for the conservation of coral reef in Mithapur, Gujarat
India has a history of 2500 years of terrestrial conservation. Arthashastra documents Gajavanas or elephant forests and ever since Ashokan inscripts and royal decrees abound on saving wild animals and their forests. The birds of Vedanthangal, the lion of Gir, the shikargahs of Kashmir, all have a long history of protection and sodo sacred groves and community forests.

What is completely missing out in this remarkable panoply of conservation in India is that of the marine nation. The sea and its creatures have always got the short shrift and the first fish (the whale shark) was protected only a few years ago. Corals likewise, tropical forests of the ocean, have never been under traditional protection systems and even the extension of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to them and the Indian Forest Service to look at them (Are seas forests? some may argue) is relatively recent. The coral reefs around Mithapur are a case in point. They are within the Tata Chemicals arena of work for long and the company has wanted to protect them as also allow access and interpretation to local communities.

WTI in collaboration with them and the Gujarat Forest Department has worked on this project to monitor, restore and interpret the corals of Mithapur. The first is routine work, the second path breaking and the third exhilarating. So let me concentrate on the latter two. Transplanting corals over a few kilometres have been done by scientists around the world but this project demonstrated that Acropora, a reef building coral that had gone extinct due to an El–Nino effect at Mithapur could be got from Lakshadweep, many hundreds of kilometres away and that they could survive for several months.

The technique of creating artificial coral substrates that attract natural coral to grow has also been a great success as has the coral garden concept where most species of coral found in
the area have been ‘planted’. Finally the interpretative literature including posters that have been produced about the marine fauna of Mithapur are a great hit with local children. In doing so, once again, WTI has broken new ground or in this case new tides.

The idea of conservation has been taken from secure terrestrial scenarios to the Gulf of Kachchh and there using a combination of good old fashioned marine science and interpretation is proving to be a path breaking project. This report documents 5 years of this project and therefore the founding principles of this novel conservation effort.

Vivek Menon
ED & CEO Wildlife Trust of India
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