Gujarat coral reefs a virtual gold mine for state....
Gandhinagar: Every square kilometre of Gujarat's coral reefs in the Gulf of Kutch is helping the state generate or notionally gain Rs7.95 million (Dh650,701) annually in various sectors, including fisheries and tourism.
This has been revealed in a study commissioned by the state on economic valuation of coral reefs spread over nearly 250 square km in the gulf, E. Balaguruswamy, principal chief conservator of forests and member-secretary of the Gujarat Ecology Commission, told IANS.
The entire three-dimensional, shallow water structures in the Gulf of Kutch are estimated to have an economic value of around Rs2.2 billion every year, the study said.
Considered a cradle of evolution, coral reefs provide habitat for commercially valuable fish, harbour vast biodiversity with unknown potential uses, provide varied and high value benefits but continue to be threatened by varied human activities.
The study covered benefits from the coral reefs accruing to sectors like fisheries, tourism and recreation, new drug and biochemicals and building materials. It also tried to monetise their natural gains like prevention of coastal salinity ingress and development of biodiversity.
"The maximum value is for fisheries, followed by coastal protection and biodiversity benefit," Balaguruswamy said.
According to the member-secretary, it is for the first time that the value of coral reefs in preventing salinity ingress along the coastal aquifer has been reported. It has clearly proved that any decline in "coral health" would entail loss in the values and subsequent decline in societal well-being, he said.
The study was ordered because the coral reef ecosystem, like many other ecosystems, is severely threatened all over the world because of over- exploitation through commercial fishing, coral mining, pollution and climate change.
Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh in his message in the report, said: "Gujarat's Gulf of Kutch is considered very unique in terms of ecology and location — except for the Red Sea, the coral reefs here are at the Earth's northernmost limits. A drastic decline in the health of coral reefs all over the globe which help reduce the impact of the waves on the shore has a direct bearing on the rising erosion and beach loss and increasing damage from storms," he said.
The Gulf of Kutch, about 170km long and 75km wide, has 7,350 square km along the Gujarat coast. Coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and sea-bed grass are part of its natural ecosystems.