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9 The Coral Reef Ecosystem of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Problems and Prospects and the World Wide Fund For Nature - India Initiatives for its Conservation by Krishna Kumar1

1 Biodiversity Hotspots Conservation Programme (Andaman and Nicobar Islands segment) WWF-India, New Delhi

WWF-India's (WWF hereinafter) interest in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) dates back to the mid eighties when it brought out a publication Endangered Andamans on the status of islands' development and conservation scenario. Since then, WWF has continued to support several initiatives through local NGOs and lend support to various campaigns that thwarted various threats to the insular ecosystem which keep emerging from time to time. The islands came on to the centrestage in 1994 with their inclusion in the ambit of WWF's Biodiversity Hotspots Conservation Programme (BHCP) underway since 1992 in the Eastern Himalaya region and the Western Ghats -the two hotspots in India of the 18 sites (all terrestrial) identified across the globe (Myers; 1988, 1990). ANI figured as subsidiary! hotspots therein. BHCP brought under its purview the ANI, in view of it being critical insular ecosystem in India. BHCP in the phase I primarily focused its attention on the terrestrial ecosystem in the Eastern Himalaya and the Western Ghats region. The phase II took cognizance of this gap and identified coastal and marine biodiversity as the focus for the Western Ghats. For the ANI, BHCP chalked out priorities to address fragile ecosystem like coral reefs and to start with identified, development of an action plan for coral reef conservation.

Subsequently, in a bid to continue the efforts to identify global representative system of Marine Protected Areas (Kelleher, et al., 1995,), WWF contributed substantially for the Central Indian Ocean Marine Region (Wells et al., 1995). The classification for this region draws primarily from Dwivedi et al. (unpublished) which developed a biogeographic classification (this should rather aptly be called bio-oceanographic classification) of the Central Indian Ocean Marine Region (Western Indian Ocean, Eastern Indian Ocean, Northern Bay of Bengal, East Bay of Bengal and the Central Indian Ocean Region, the latter includes the ANI). Among other things existing Marine Protected Areas in the region were assessed. Marine sites and coastal sites in this region were also identified. This study highlighted the fact that only India (including ANI) and Sri Lanka have semblance of MPAs in the Central Indian Ocean Marine Region with other countries in the region [Bangladesh, British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago, Maldives and Myanmar] drawing blank. However, regional priorities for establishment of MPAs in each country of this region was chalked out. For the ANI, Wandoor Marine National Park, rechristened Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (MGNP) which is strictly a marine site under protection, was accorded regional priority and recommended for the management support as also for its expansion and effective management. MGNP also happens to be the sole MPA in the Central Indian ocean region. A recent Wildlife Institute of India's proposal to draw up a management plan for the National Park addresses the above said recommendations for the MGNP.

Wells et al. I.c. proposed following new MPAs for the ANI:


· Upgrading of some sanctuaries to Park status: Narcondam Island; North Reef Island; South Sentinel Island; Barren Island; and all islets in the west coast Shearme group, the northern Landfall group, and the east coast Table-Brush group

· Little Andamans: 300 sq km National Park proposed for southwestern half of islands to include turtle nesting beaches and Giant Robber crabs

· Little Nicobar with surrounding islets: proposed as a National Park

· Great Nicobar: northern area (north of Casuarina Bay - Dagmar River and Mt. Tuiellier) to be a wildlife sanctuary

· Extension of Mount Harriet National Park to include an adjoining marine area.


There are also proposals for amalgamating some of the tiny individual island sanctuaries into ten larger units for more efficient administration; for bringing a larger area of mangroves into the protected area network; and for creating a number of other protected areas. Highest priorities relating to MPAs are as follows:

· Creation of North Andaman Peninsula Wildlife Sanctuary
· Creation of a sanctuary in West Rutland to act as a buffer for the Marine National Park.
· Establishment of Little Andaman National Park
· Upgrading of South Sentinel Wildlife Sanctuary to National Park
· Extension of Button 1. National Park to include Outram I. and surrounding waters
· Upgrading of Narcondam Wildlife Sanctuary to National Park
· Upgrading of North Reef Wildlife Sanctuary to National Park
· Establishment of Great Nicobar Wildlife Sanctuary
· Establishment of Little Nicobar National Park

While it is to be appreciated that such proposals have been made, the recommendations for these sites have been made largely on the basis of considerations other than coral reefs, but this is the best possible given the lack of spatial data and information on the status of the coral reefs in the islands. The islands' coral reefs are not yet explored completely and reports on the record/new species continue till today. Occurrence of new and distributional records for as many as 26 species of soft corals were reported recently. Further, new coral growth has been mapped offshore in a few places in the MGNP, etc.

Following account would give some idea on the coral reefs distribution and species diversity.

Coral reefs are stretched over an area of 11,000 sq km in the Andamans while the Nicobars have 2,700 sq km under coral reefs. The ANI have fringing reefs around east coast and a long barrier reef (320 km) on the west.

The reefs are poorly known scientifically but may prove to be the most diverse in India and those in best condition. So far 39 genera with 179 species are recorded (ca. 76 genera and 342 species in India). The reefs in the islands stand out when considered vis a vis other areas in the region:

117 Species in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay, India
134 Species (65 genera) in Sri Lanka
60 Species (30 genera) from Mergui's Archipelago in Myanmar.

While enumeration on the coral reef species is an ongoing activity, the associated coral reef biota like fishes and others are not given due attention. Realising this lacuna, BHCP is supporting a project on the coral reef fishes which is implemented by the a local NGO Society for Andaman Nicobar Ecology (SANE) in collaboration with the UT's Forest Department, Fisheries Department and the Central Agricultural Research Institute. Among other things, enumeration of species and their abundance in selected coral reefs sites is being made. Identification of the coral reef fishes to assess the status of coral reefs is also envisioned.

As a spin-off, SANE and BHCP have developed a Reef Watch programme and enlisted the support of local administration's like Forest and Fisheries Departments, divers of Navy and the Central Fisheries Survey of India. The Coast Guards are also being roped in for monitoring. Also, links with the South Asian region part of Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network are being forged./

It is visualised that an Action Plan would be possible once the project gathers data on the current status of coral reef and the fishes therein in the selected sites.

The WWF project is also to suggest strategies for the conservation and management of coral reefs which would further meet the needs of the projected action plan. Till such time, BHCP is developing a monitoring program for the selected protected areas which includes among others, the MGNP.

In the meantime, to focus the attention on the sites of global importance, Conservation Science Program of WWF-US has identified 200 odd sites called Ecoregions across the world (terrestrial and marine). The AN I terrestrial and marine ecosystem figured in the Global 200 ecoregions. The Andaman Islands forests (Ecoregion # 41) and Nicobar lowland forests clubbed with Sumatran Island of Indonesia (Ecoregion # 31) are the terrestrial ecoregions. The conservation status of the Andaman Islands forest is vulnerable while Nicobars are assigned critical or endangered status. The Global 200, under the coral reef and associated marine ecosystems listed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands marine ecosystems as a marine priority ecoregkm (# 198).

This representative approach sets it apart from the earlier priority setting for conservation like hotspots, megabiodiversity country approaches which largely overlooked marine and freshwater biodiversity and distinctive ecological or evolutionary phenomenon.

The marine ecoregions designated as Global 200 are nestled within a large marine ecosystem framework developed by WWF-US which itself is based largely on several global analyses including that of Myers and Kelleher I.e. The delineation of marine ecoregions is intended to highlight general regions within which characteristic animals, plants, ecological interactions and biophysical processes occur. Relative to most terrestrial ecoregions, these are more spatially and temporally dynamic ecological and biogeographic units. The marine ecoregions encompass coral reef and associated marine ecosystems. In general, marine ecoregion associated with isolated islands and enclosed seas tend to display higher levels of endemism.

The ecoregions concept which is by far the most representative kind of priority setting enabled WWF to launch Living Planet Campaign: countdown to the year 2000. Through this campaign WWF will work with individuals, corporations, industries and governments to achieve concrete actions for conservation of these Global 200 ecoregions and the animals and plants that live there.

Gap analyses:

Though, there are over 100 National Parks and Sanctuaries in the islands, there is no sizable MPA barring MGNP (281.5 sq km) which protects coral reefs habitat. Rodgers and Panwar, 1988) while recommending various sites as national parks and sanctuaries in the ANI overlooked areas which could conserve marine biota including coral reefs. They however, identified two islands (coral reefs groups) in Lakshadweep Islands as sanctuaries. However, there 15 small PAs (Annexure I) which cover coastal habitats, but their seaward boundary is not clearly defined. There are, but few gaps particularly in the design of the protected area planning and management which are analysed herein.

Most of the island sanctuaries, were recommended to be Strict Nature Reserve (IUCN category #1) to the MOEF committee for amending Wildlife Protection Act (1972) (Bhatt and Kothari, 1996). SNR has no legal status as such. Rodgers and Panwar, I.e. also stated that PAs should either be national parks or sanctuaries. This recommendation, if thus amended would dilute the existing protected area network in the islands. The proposal made herein to have the Large Marine Conservation Units (LMCUs) would further strengthen the PA network since LMCU would contain islands which are not PAs but would facilitate monitoring and research activities in the PAs in the LMCU, for e.g. Smith Island in the Andamans which has presence of UT's Forest Department.

The LMCU proposed herein follows by and large MGNP model which has several islands for e.g. Red Skin, Boat, Malay, Jolly Boys, Rifleman, etc. included in the national park and are thus protected. The exception being that PAs are part of the LMCU besides other islands, to facilitate monitoring and management of the LMCUs.

The West coast of the Andaman Islands have a long 320 km of the barrier reef which is recognised among the other barrier reefs like those of New Caledonia, Belize, Fiji and Western Australia. There are about 40 small PAs on the West Coast of the Andaman Islands excluding Little Andamans which has none. The long stretch of barrier reef remains largely outside the PAs network barring the MGNP. The Eastern coast of the Andamans with fringing coral reefs has majority of PAs (about 60%). It is riot known whether these PAs cover fringing reefs. Though, it is easy to suggest a Barrier Reef Marine Park, for the entire 320 km stretch the along the lines of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia, management of this could be a daunting task given the lack of fiscal and human resources.

It is worthwhile to mention that most of the human settlements and various anthropogenic activities are mostly concentrated on or towards the eastern coast than on western. Conservation remedial measures should take this fact in to consideration.

Andaman group of Islands:

Recommendations for new MPAs (Wells et al. I.e.) involving upgradations and amalgamations are rather silent on the presence or, absence of coral reefs. For example, extension of Mount Harriet National Park to include marine area should take into consideration whether the marine area has coral reefs and the status thereof. Delineation of the park boundary should cover the entire coral reef stretch around the existing boundary. There is a proposal to add portions of the North Andaman Reserve Forest to the west and south of the Park which would cover terrestrial habitats including the Mt Harriet.

Proposals for extension of Button Islands (N, M, and S) National Parks to include Outram Island and surrounding waters and the creation of a sanctuary in West Rutland to act as a buffer for the MGNP should see if the coral reefs around these PAs can be included, if any.

Recommendation to upgrade existing sanctuaries to Park status like Narcondam Island, North Reef Island, South Sentinel Island and Barren Island would not conserve marine areas unless we define their seaward boundaries and see whether coral reefs around them can be brought under protection.

The proposal to have all islets in the west coast Shearme group is, however a noteworthy one since small islets around the Shearme Island Sanctuary can be conglomerated as one unit. Infact, the neighbouring island sanctuaries like Point Island, Paget Island and Mayo Island Sanctuaries and island sanctuaries northwards like Reef Island, White Cliff Island, West Island hold the potential of an effective LMCU which is proposed here. Besides, the outlying isles like Thornhill and Brown Hill can also be included in the proposed LMCU. (Map I)

Likewise the northern Landfall group which includes Landfall, East and Peacock Island sanctuaries can be an effective LMCU and monitored and managed from the inhabited Landfall Island Sanctuary. (Map 11)

The east coast Table-Brush group comprising of Tables (Excelsior and Delgarno) Island Sanctuaries and far off Brush Island Sanctuary down south could be expanded to have Island sanctuaries like Trilby Island Sanctuary, Tree Island Sanctuary, Table Island, Temple Island Sanctuary, Turtle Island Sanctuary, Ross Island Sanctuary, Wharf Island Sanctuary North Island Sanctuary and Jungle Island Sanctuary included in the LMCU unit with monitoring and management facilitated through the presence of Union Territory' Forest Department presence at the Smith Island which can be included in the LMCU. (Map III)

The Little Andaman Island which has no protected area, could be a paradigm to have the concept of IMCAM implemented (discussed later) in the ANI. The proposal to have a national park in the south western half of island and to include turtle nesting sites and Giant Robber Crab's coastal habitats is laudable. Due attention to the coral reefs around the S W Little Andaman Island should be given and included, if any. Wells et al. I.e. proposed MPA in the island accorded it national priority.

Map - 1

Map - 2

Map - 3

Based upon Survey of India map with the permission of the Surveyor General of India.

The territorial water of India extend into the sea to a distance of twelve nautical miles measured from the appropriate base line.

Ó Government of India


Nicobar group of Islands:

Nicobar group of Islands with 2700 sq km area under coral reefs is grossly neglected as far as marine protected areas are concerned. Nicobar reefs have been found to be more productive than Andamans.

None of the existing small island PAs in Nicobars (Battimalv Island Sanctuary, Tillangchong Island Sanctuary and Megapode Island Sanctuary) have marine areas under protection. Though Rodgers and Panwar/.c. recommended for the upgradation of Tillanchong, among others, as National Park, they didn't delve into the issue of marine biodiversity conservation. These islands are uninhabited and inaccessible and is likely that coral reefs around them are in pristine state. Though the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve covers most of the island's terrestrial and to an extent coastal habitats, marine areas including those having coral reefs are not covered. Though MPAs have been proposed for Nicobars, it is not yet known whether the coral reefs are covered in the MPAs boundary.

Little Nicobar Island with surrounding islets which are proposed as- a national park could be in contiguity with the proposed wildlife sanctuary in the Great Nicobar's northern area (north of Casuarina Bay - Dagmar River and Mt. Tuiellier) if Kondul Island is also included along with the outlying small islands around Little Nicobar Island like Menchal, Pulowmilow, Albatan Matan, Mafuya, Meroe, and those falling within the limits of Sombrero channel which would conserve marine stretches acting as an effective LMCU (Map IV). Nicobar coral reefs stretches would thus be conserved. The BHCP-SANE project on coral reefs fish is likely to flag some coral reefs sites which could be considered to be included in the areas already proposed or proposals put up separately particularly for the Nicobars.

A status survey of the islands' reefs should be carried out so that they can be included in the proposed LMCUs which is open for modification as and when the information on the coral reef distribution is made available.


Sedimentation appears to be the major cause for the decline of most coral reefs which is also associated with large-scale mortality in reefs, reduced coral growth, reduced fertility, increased mortality of coral planulae and abnormal changes in polyp behaviour (Rogers, 1990). It is also important to establish the extent to which marine protected areas like MGNP are being damaged by murky or polluted water coming from upstream in South Andamans.

A pointer towards the shape of things to come is the observation that mud deposits have been found on the reef area at few places near Port Blair, Navy Bay, Flat Bay, Reef Island, etc. Sedimentation in the recent past in the AN I and elsewhere triggered off infestation of the crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci which has the potential to destroy whole reefs in a short period (Wood, 1989). Adding to further reefs problem is disease and bleaching imputed to rising turbidity. Protracted bleaching brings down growth rates and could be fatal. Corals particularly the branching types, are prone to breakage, especially in the areas open to tourist or fisherfolks and others. Over-collection for construction or for sale as curios and ornamental and edible shellfish is proving to be a bane for the corals.

Regulation of tourism adds another dimension to the coral reef conservation which is going to ensure long term survival of the islands. That coral reefs are the centre of attraction for the visiting domestic and overseas tourists is borne out by the fact that MGNP is increasingly coming under pressure from tourism related activities, especially on the reefs. Tourism in the islands is likely to come on the centrestage following Department of Tourism, Government of India, the ANI Administration and UNDP study to earmark certain island/islands group for promoting tourism which is treated as an industry. The said report is being considered by the Government of India.

In the years gone by, immigration of hordes of settlers to the islands have brought the coral reef habitats under various threats like the one resulting from siltation (attributed to soil erosion, deforestation), over-collection of shellfish and corals (for sale to tourists and local handicrafts industry), coral mining for construction, and trampling of the corals by tourists and fisherfolks. Added to this is the changing land use in the islands, including intensive modem agricultural practices using pesticides and organic and inorganic fertilizers, which may have unforeseen impacts on the reefs due to surface run-off from the fields.

Monitoring and management of various activities in the islands is another awesome task which has to be carefully planned and effected. Various levels of protection afforded to coral reefs on site may turn meaningless if the off site activities like deforestation leading to soil erosion, etc. in the islands continue unabated.

Where do we go from here?

Nowhere else the imperatives for the conservation of the two closely linked fragile ecosystems become apparent as in the islands. The ANI presents an excellent opportunity for the implementation of integrated marine and coastal area management (IMCAM) as per Jakarta Mandate on marine and coastal biodiversity. It is also a tool for the signatory parties of the Convention on Biodiversity to fulfill their obligations. WWF is in the process of addressing the IMCAM in conjunction with the Marine Program of WWF-lnternational. The various issues related to the existing PAs and the new proposals on the MPAs linking them with IMCAM will be addressed by the WWF initiative.

Tentatively the following need immediate attention:

· all stakeholders relevant to the IMCAM process must be identified in the initial stages and included in the planning process-these should include local communities (mostly in the large islands) and fishing communities, the tourism industry and Union Territory Administration's agencies responsible for economic development, water management, coastal defenses, environment and physical planning, among others. Eventhough there are about 50 fisherfolk cooperatives in the islands except few, all are defunct. These needs to be vitalised so that they are involved meaningfully in the process. Tourism has already been declared an industry.

· stakeholders must be provided with the necessary information and education and training provided where required, so that they can contribute effectively to the IMCAM process

· an appropriate institutional mechanism must be developed, with a clearly defined decision-making body in place such a body may vary in form according to the characteristics of the situation (e.g. designated institution, committee with due representatives of NGOs and other individuals)

For marine and coastal areas following should be established:

· a consultative mechanism (e.g. Advisory Committee) should be established from the beginning to ensure participation by and representation of all stakeholders.

· a mechanism to ensure sustainable financing should be developed for each MPA.

· the agencies and communities responsible for the management of an MPA should receive appropriate training, education, and support (i.e. capacity building). The Marine Specimen Centre run by the Fisheries Department of AMI Administration has on display living and non living marine species such as ornamental fishes, various kinds of corals, sea shells, sea cucumber, sea urchin, crustaceans, eel, sharks, etc. This centre popular with visiting tourists, students, scholars, researchers, scientists, etc. could be structured to meet the requirements. Establishment of Marine Aquarium and Ocean Science Technology Centre at Port Blair has been a given a thought to. Possession of land has been taken over by the Department of Ocean Development, Govt. of India. Perhaps this needs to be expedited. Provision of infrastructural facilities-like sea worthy vessels, communication equipment's, and other such gadgets which would equip and enable management authorities to cope up with the mounting poaching pressure - need to be given a thought. Many remote PAs in AN I do not have even one sea worthy vessel for e.g. Narcondam Sanctuary in Andamans and Great Nicobar Island in Nicobars which is designated as a biosphere reserve.

· a monitoring and evaluation programme should be established from the beginning, and should cover socio-economic parameters as well as environmental and ecosystem one.

Islands have diverse marine wealth including commercially important species. Illegal collection of such species have increased considerably, particularly by the people from neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Thailand. Poaching of this kind should be curbed. Coral reef fishes are collected from the reefs for their use in aquariums. Sea shells and others marine products are increasingly being used in local sea shell based handicraft which is a thriving industry today on which people depend for their livelihoods. These attributes must be looked into, while defining socio-economic parametres as well as environmental and ecosystem for monitoring and evaluation programme.

· no-take zones (fish refugia or sanctuaries) should be established within all MPAs in appropriate areas, to ensure that each MPA contributes to sustainable fisheries management.

Sustainable use of coastal and marine living resources: The island economy has hitherto been dependent on the forest resources. It is time that a policy for sustainable uses of marine and coastal resources is developed.

Mariculture: This approach would meet the abovesaid objective. The island has in place Marine Product Export Development Authority. The latter has developed a methodology for shrimp farming. Besides, Andaman and Nicobar Centre for Ocean Development, ANCOD under the Department of Ocean Development (DoD) has a presence in the islands. DoD had commissioned the National

Institute of Oceanography a project on intensive polyculture in the island ecosystem of India. Suitable sites for floating wooden cages have been identified in Andaman waters to demonstrate culture technique of commercially important marine organisms.

Non authocthonous species: The abovesaid approach needs to be exercised with caution. In the recent past there have been attempts at bringing exotic fish species like European Seabass and Gilthead Seabream to cage culture them in islands water.

legal and Policy Framework for the Conservation of Coastal and Marine Resources and Protected Areas:

The following account gives an overall picture (including annotations) of the legal and policy support for the conservation of coastal and marine resources and protected areas:

1. Constitution of India

Art 48-A: The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

Art-51 A (g): Imposes a similar responsibility on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

2. Wildlife Protection Act 1972

Section 35(1) Declaration of national parks (this includes the coastal and marine protected areas)

Section 35(6) Prevention against destruction, exploitation, removal of any wildlife from a national park or destruction or damage of the habitat of any wild animal or deprive any wild animal of its habitat within such national park is necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife therein, authorizes the issue of such permit.

Notes: Coral reef species and reef dwelling fishes are not included in the schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act. This is more because of lack of data on the species than willful negligence. This perhaps also explains for their exclusion from the Red list of threatened animals. Further, there seems to be no restriction on the coral collections from the reefs outside the protected areas.

3. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna (CITES):

Notes: CITES has some coral reef fishes listed on its appendices, information for these from AN I is far from complete because of lack of data on coral reef fishes which is being currently addressed by WWF. Some coral genera have been listed like Milleporidae, order: Athecate (Fire corals) and Tubiporidae, order Stlolonifera (Organ Pipe Corals). This would of course, in principle covers all the species of these genera.

4. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

Section 3(1) subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing controlling and abating environmental pollution.

Notes: Though the pollution load on the islands' reefs is not known, coral reefs are threatened because of dumping of saw dusts generated by local plywood industries. The latter may not be dumping the waste on the coral reefs directly but it has the potential of smothering the reefs. Siltation resulting from deforestation is the primary reason for the decline of coral reefs. Oil slicks and spillage by plying and berthing cargo/passenger vessels have the potential to affect the reefs adversely. Issues relating to dumping of hazardous materials, waste management, oil spills affecting both the coasts and oceans falling in the ambit of Disaster Management also need attention. A mention may be made of an oil spill in January 1993 in the Great Channel of 40,000 tons of light crude oil. During the span of a fortnight, the oil slick covered an area of 80,000 sq km coming as close as 10 nautical miles off the Great Nicobar Island. Though the Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction Systems (COMAPS), a component of the Department of Ocean Development's Coastal Zone and Islands programme, is monitoring pollution levels around Port Blair, much needs to be done. The EPA should be made sensitive to the pollution of kinds as discussed above which threaten coral reefs long term survival.

4 a. The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 1991 (Notification No.S.0.114(E) of 19 February 1991)

Notification under section 3(1) and section 3(2)(v) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 and rule 5(3) (d) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, declaring coastal stretches as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and regulating activities in the CRZ.

For regulating development activities, the coastal stretches within 500 metres of the high tide line of the landward side are classified into 4 categories.

Category 1 of CRZ:

(i) classifies areas that are ecologically sensitive and important, such as national parks/marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests, wildlife habitats, mangroves, corals, coral reefs, areas close to breeding and spawning grounds offish and marine life, areas of outstanding natural beauty/historical/heritage areas/areas rich in genetic diversity, areas likely to be inundated due to rising sea level consequent upon global warming and such other areas as may be declared by the Central Government or the concerned authorities at the state/union territory level from time to time.

(ii) Area between low tide line and high tide line.

The CRZ has specifically classified the Andaman and Nicobar Islands besides Lakshadeep under category IV except those designated as CRZ-I, CRZ-II or CRZ-III. It has categorically mentioned that corals and sand from the beaches and coastal waters shall not be used for construction and other purposes; and dredging and underwater blasting in and around coral formations shall not be permitted.

For the small islands, the above said conditions also apply.

Notes: In 1996, five years behind the schedule and under Supreme Court's pressure, the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of the UT's Administration-which prescribes coastal development without ecological destruction and identified and categorized the coastal areas for different activities-submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests has come in for a flak in view of it being considered "anti people' and 'anti development'. CZMP also aims to ban all kinds of construction works including drawal of ground water from the coastal areas. Because CRZ does not allow for the collection of sand and corals which are used for construction purposes in the islands, discontentment among public is growing. Also, coral rubble is used for the beautification purposes such as lining the driveways to the offices, hotels and guest houses in the islands.

It is to be appreciated that removal of sand and coral would in turn endanger human settlements in the islands. For e.g. in Great Nicobar Island, the ex servicemen settlement has been endangered because of coastal erosion owing to the lifting of sand, gravel, coral rubble, etc. Notwithstanding, collection of such materials continues contravening CRZ prescriptions. It is difficult to estimate the quantum of dead coral rubble collected/mined in the islands.

5. The Fisheries Act of A&N Islands

License is given for fishing by the fisheries department. For shell fishing, license is given by the D C of Andaman Islands and it comes under A&N shell fishing rule 1978.

India has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) estimated to about 2.02 million sq km. Of this about six lakhs sq km (ca 30%) is constituted by the ANI. Also, India has over 7,000 sq km coast line of which over one fourth (1962 km) is contributed by the ANI. In 1976, India amended its constitution enacting the Maritime Zones Act. India is also signatory to the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) which came into force in November 1994 and was ratified in 1995 by India. A large majority of coastal state/UTs conform to the provisions made in UNCLOS III on the various sea uses and resources utilization upto a distance of 200 miles of EEZ from the coast line. Since ratification of the UNCLOS, effective control of EEZ has assumed significance.

Coastal states/UTs are also extending their jurisdiction in the EEZ in so far as environmental pollution, control of shipping including supervision of dangerous cargo and general problems of safety are concerned.

The South Asian Seas Regional Program with the participation of India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is one of the 13 Regional Seas Program of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). An Action Plan for protection and management of the marine environment in South Asian Seas was adopted on 24th March 1995. India is the repository of the final Act conveying the adoption of the Action Plan by the countries concerned. Action Plan has specified the priorities including development of Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plans, development and implementation of national/regional oil and chemical spill contingency plans, human resource development through strengthening of regional centres of excellence and protection of the marine environment from land based activities.

The South Asia Co operative Environment Program (SACEP) formed under the aegis of the Marine Environment Program of the UNEP has been designated as the Secretariat for the program.

This forum should address the coral reefs conservation within the framework of SACEP which has by and large similar priorities as WWF's and for which some semblance of legal and policy, institutional support exists. Perhaps this workshop should look into the modalities of filling the gaps and strengthening of the existing structures.


I am grateful to Mr Samar Singh, Secretary General, WWF India and Mr A R K Sastry, Director, BHCP for giving me an opportunity to present the scenario of coral reef conservation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I am thankful to Mr Sastry for giving valuable advice during the genesis of this paper.

Annexure 1

Other coastal areas include:

· Saddle Peak National Park: includes a long rocky beach

· North, Middle and South Button Island National Park: nesting turtles, mangroves

· Barren I. Sanctuary: active volcano, with coral communities
Coral reefs around the Barren Island were reportedly damaged during the volcanic eruptions in 1991.

· Battimalv I. Sanctuary (Nicobars): mangroves

· Interview I. Sanctuary: mangroves, hawksbills

· South Reef I. Sanctuary: lies off the tip of Interview I.

· Megapode I. Sanctuary (Nicobars): reefs, mangroves

· Narcondam I. Sanctuary: beaches, corals, mangroves

· La Touche I. Sanctuary: green turtle

· Saltwater Crocodile Sanctuary: an extension of Wandoor Marine National Park to the north; numerous creeks and inlets, mangroves, turtles, crocodiles

· South Sentinel I. Sanctuary: small coral island, beaches, large green turtle nesting beach, mangroves; established mainly for coconut crab

· Tillongchang I. Sanctuary: cliffs, mangroves, beaches

Literature Cited:

Bhatt, Seema and Ashish Kothari (1996). Expanded system of conservation area categories for India. Submitted to the MoEF Committee for Amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

Dwivedi, S N., S. Singh, and R. T. Ivan. (1994). Marine Protected Areas: Central Indian Ocean. Unpublished report prepared for IUCN-CNPPA, Gland, Switzerland.

Kelleher, Graeme, Chris Bleakley and Sue Wells (1995): A global representative system of protected areas. Vol. III The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, The World Bank and The World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Myers, N. (1988). Threatened Biotas: "Hotspots" in Tropical Forests; The Environmentalist; Vol. 8; No.3; 1-20.

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