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NIO experiments for repopulating damaged coral reef areas of Lakshadweep
Coral reefs in India have been under stress for quite sometime. Lakshadweep reefs bore the brunt of coral mining, souvenir coral collection, ground water pollution and mechanical damages due to activities like dredging. While efforts led by scientists could identify these issues and suggest remedies, Dr MVM Wafar, a senior scientist involved in the projects on coral reefs at Lakshadweep realized that the conservation will not be unsuccessful without involvement of local population. As corals are distributed below water surface down to 50m depth, assessment of their well-being and management requires competence in SCUBA diving and observation skills. In order to achieve these 2 objectives Dr Wafar created dive centre in Lakshadweep, acquired diving kits, trained a broad spectrum of stakeholders ranging from officers, wardens, scientific staff to unemployed local youth from all 10 islands of Lakshadweep. A basic training was focused on coral reef monitoring that do not require extraordinary skills but still could produce adequate data for management policies. The output of all these activities is the creation of a community team that is competent to monitor their own ecosystem on a regular basis and report damages to the managers. A fall-out from this is a heightened awareness of the importance of coral that feeds into societal commitment to conservation. A current initiative with the societal target is the transplantation of corals in order to repopulate damaged coral reef areas. During the last 2 years the technique has been tested and found suitable. It is also simple enough to be used by the local population with limited or no knowledge of corals. Dr Wafar says, "I am in the process of transferring this to a community-involved exercise in all islands so that reef restoration is enhanced and additional income generated for the local population by way of fish catch from near the transplantation site". The projects that began in the year 2000, and have made a noticeable impact in the relationship between the local population of Lakshadweep islands and their immediate environment, the coral reefs and NIO hopes that the efforts would bear good fruits in the form or restoration of our damaged environment which is most difficult to recover.
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