A restful beach

Mangroves in Neil Kendra, Andaman

One of the most restful beaches I found in Andaman was the beach in Neil Kendra. I was biased of course; a cut on my leg prevented me from entering the water, so I was a beach comber during my vacation. The Neil Kendra beach had no people at all. It is not a swimming beach, because it is fronted by corals and mangroves.

I did not pay much attention to mangroves before 2004. Then when extensive reports came in of how mangrove ecosystems saved villages from the tsunami, I began to find more information on these swampy backwaters of Mumbai. Today it seems to be an integral part of coast management, given that it not only protects the shore, but actually builds new area. Also, the coastal ecosystem around mangroves is extremely productive, since it harbours many kinds of fish.

Mangroves in Neil Kendra, Andaman

None of this was on my mind as I walked on the beach. My indoors job leaves me little time to walk in the sun. So I was making the best use of my vacation to soak in the vitamin D as I tried to work up an appetite for lunch. The Family thought I was mad to walk in the heat; she sat in the restaurant and sipped a lime and soda. The roots of these trees formed beautiful traps which reflected in the pools of water below them. They gave me some nice photos even in the noonday sun.

Mangroves are like the kindergarten, seagrasses are the secondary schools, and coral reefs are the high schools and colleges for fishes! And, once [the fishes] graduate from university, they return to kindergarten to spawn! -Khun Pisit, cofounder of Thailand’s Yad Fon mangrove preservation project

I’m used to the mangroves of Mumbai. I’ve seen fisherfolk walk among them at low tide laying pots to trap shrimps, or harvesting previously laid traps. I’ve spent weekends near these mangrove swamps birdwatching. These are very popular with birdwatchers around Mumbai. The very fact that so many wading birds can be seen in such places means that there are fish and crustaceans here. In Mumbai one cannot be oblivious of the fact that builders constantly try to have laws and regulations changed so that they can build over these swamps.

Still, with India’s huge coastline, I’d expected that India would be among the top ten nations harbouring mangroves. It was a shock that it isn’t. Even more shocking is the fact that the Indian Forest Service reports that Kerala had 6 sq Km of mangroves in 2013! Only Odisha, West Bengal and Andaman have dense mangrove forests. Indonesia has more than twenty times as much of mangrove forests as India does. I guess if we bring up our children to eat fish, we should do a little more for mangroves.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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