In a bid to improve marine ecology in the state, the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) would be transplanting corals from the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu to Gulf of Kutch, as part of a pilot project.
“We will be taking up a coral transplantation project on pilot basis for five years to improve marine ecology in the Gulf of Kutch,” GEC member secretary E Balagurusami said.
“Under this project we aim to transplant corals from Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu to Gulf of Kutch region in Gujarat. This transplantation would be done in five to six islands,” he said, adding that this would be done with the help from Tamil Nadu forest department.
“Since the ecological conditions in Mannar and Kutch, including the salinity in water are identical, it has been decided to transplant corals from Gulf of Mannar,” he added.
The total reef area in the Gulf of Kutch has decreased over the years, primarily due to natural and manmade causes.
Among the natural causes, the most significant are geographic isolation and extreme environmental conditions leading to the survival of only a few hardy species. While siltation, from legal and illegal mining of corals, construction of harbours and industries in the vicinity of coral reefs, are some of the key cause of reduction in species of corals in the Gulf of Kutch.
Balagurusami said that experts would begin assessment of places where the transplantation would be done after this year’s monsoon season.
“In the first year, we plan to do transplantation in 200 sq mt area and gradually increase it to 2000 sq mt in five years time,” the GEC member secretary said.
Balagurusami said the results of transplantation would take at least three years to become visible.
“After looking at the results, we would decide about transplantation in larger scale in the Gulf of Kutch area where the Marine National Park is located,” he said.
“Which species to transplant would be decided by the experts who would be coming from Chennai after the monsoon,” he said, adding that there are about 55 species of corals reported in the Gulf of Kutch.
According to Balagurusami, if the pilot project succeeds, they would think of training locals in the region into transplanting techniques and use of various other technologies, and involve them in the process.
The whole stretch of coral reefs and mangroves in the Gulf of Kutch, covering an area of 295 sq km, was declared a Marine Sanctuary in 1980 while 163 sq km area was declared as Marine National Park in 1982 by the state government.
Marine National Park, which is located in the Gulf of Mannar, is spread across 560 sq km from and lying within the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, which covers 10,500 sq km area on the south-east coast of India.
It is one of the world’s richest regions from marine bio diversity perspective and the first marine Biosphere Reserve in Southeast Asia.
Corals are marine organisms typically living in compact colonies of many identical individuals and are closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish. They are highly sensitive to environmental changes.
Corals die if surrounding water temperature changes by more than a degree or two beyond their normal range or if water salinity drops.
A coral reef is a ridge or mound of limestone, with its upper surface near the level of the sea, and is predominantly composed of calcium carbonate secreted by organisms, mainly corals. They protect the coast, increase its stability and help create sheltered harbours for fish. It also protects the coast against erosion.
The coral reefs are also rich in biological resources, with associated flora and fauna such as food fishes, molluscs, macroalgae and ornamental fishes.