'Development along coast threat to bio-diversity'

'Development along coast threat to bio-diversity' - Sakshi Post

Environmental groups have demanded an immediate halt to the development projects, including ports and power plants, along the country's coast, saying they pose a serious threat to marine and coastal bio-diversity.

A group of seven non-governmental organisations (NGOs) voiced concern over an unprecedented scale of 'development' along the east and west coast.

In a joint statement, the NGOs said future development on the coast should be prohibited until the issue is reviewed and resolved.

The Bombay Natural History Society, National Coastal Protection Campaign, Dakshin Foundation, PondyCAN, Kalpavriksh, ICSF Trust and Greenpeace India released the statement at a news conference on the sidelines of the ongoing 11th meeting of the United Nations' Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) here.

They said the projects, including ports, power plants, ship yards and coastal armouring, spell doom for large tracts of inter-tidal and near-shore marine areas.

According to them, aggressive and insensitive development is turning 7,500 km of India's beautiful coastline, which supports almost 30 percent of its population, into biological and economic wastelands with wide economic, social, cultural and ecological repercussions.

The statement said the development would also make traditional fishermen more vulnerable, destroying or displacing their livelihoods.

Probil Banerjee, a marine expert, voiced concern that the governments in Maharashtra and Gujarat were proposing a port at every 13 km. "The coastal commons have been given to corporates and the government gives a rosy picture while concealing the destruction these projects are causing to coastal ecosystems," he said.

He pointed out that 22 percent of sandy beaches in India were walled up for the development projects.

Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh said the so-called development activity was threatening ecologically sensitive areas in the Indian Ocean, which has the second largest marine eco-system in the world.

The NGOs called for urgent legal, policy, and institutional action to conserve coastal and marine bio-diversity, especially by empowering traditional coastal communities through recognising tenurial rights and regulating the kind of development that is allowed in such areas.

As many as 15 power plants, six captive ports and six mega shipyards are coming up in a 150 km coastal stretch in Maharashtra.

Andhra Pradesh has also proposed 10 new ports and 15 thermal power projects along the coast. The state also has 70 special economic zones (SEZs) in 15 districts, including a staggering five million acres in a coastal corridor that will include airports, sea ports, ship-breaking, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, information technology, apparel units and captive thermal power stations.


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