Environmental challenges to the mangrove wetlands of North Malabar (Kerala), India: Their sustainable development and influence on local people
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Study Number:

K.M. Khaleel & C.A. Jaleel


Wetlands, including mangroves, perform several functions such as inun­dation control, and protection from erosion, storm, floods and tidal dama­ge, and generate goods and products such as fish and forest resources. These functions are of fundamental importance for society. The present study aims to identify the challenges of the mangrove wetlands of north Malabar, their uses and socio-economic influence on local people, and the value of ecosystem services, and to suggest the way forward for sustaina­ble development.

Main Results and Conclusions:
  • Mangroves provide important habitat for a variety of species: “The high productivity of mangrove ecosystems means that they provide ample food supplies to maintain a complex food chain. They therefore provide fertile habitats and nursery grounds for many wild species of commercial importance, including shellfish and fish. Thus, the ecosystem service value is high… The mangrove forest found in the wetlands helps to prevent natural calamities such as Tsunami” (1-2).
  • Three study sites were used in the study: Valapattanam, Vellikkeel, and Kavvayi (2).
  • The value of the ecosystem service provided by mangroves is extensive: “As North Malabar has a total of 3750 ha of mangrove wetlands, the ecosystem service value per year can be calculated as 10 960 x 3750 = 41 100 000 US $. Approximately, it is equal to Rs. 164 crores and 40 lakhs” (4).
  • The people in the community who depend on mangroves and/or are affiliated with the area are: fishermen, those involved in shell mining and processing, coir retting workers, sand miners, ferry service and crab catchers (4-5).
  • Recommendations for sustainable development (7-8):
    • Conscious building of infrastructure
    • Conservation of undisturbed mangrove areas (includes no dumping/polluting practices)
    • Inventory log of ecosystem goods extracted from mangrove habitats should be documented regularly to ensure no overexploitation,
    • The use of non-destructive aquaculture practices should be encouraged with ponds behind or landward of mangrove habitat rather than inside the habitats themselves.
    • Jetties and Resident dwellings should be built on stilts to avoid forest damage
    • Practice sustainable extraction of goods only
    • On a large scale, only use partial extraction practices for timber in parallel alternative rows with reforestation techniques (deforestation),
    • Reforestation should be carried out in areas where natural regrowth is insufficient
    • Ecotourism that is non-harmful to the environment should be encouraged
Works Cited:

Costanza R., d'Arge R., de Groot R., Farber S., Grasso M., Hannon B., Limburg K., Naeem S., O’Neill R.V., Paruelo J., Raskin R.G., Sutton P. and van den Belt M., 1997. The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387, 253.