The threat of a second tsunami in three months proved an empty one but the country still has to wrestle with the ecological damage wrought by the first one.
NEW DELHI The threat of a second tsunami in three months proved an empty one but the country still has to wrestle with the ecological damage wrought by the first one.
Three months after the December 26 tsunami ravaged coasts, the environment ministry says the major areas of concern which have emerged are coral reefs, mangroves and coastal forests. In order of severity of loss or damage, it's the Nicobar island group, then the Andamans group and lastly, Tamil Nadu.
Ten institutes asked to conduct separate assessments of damage have given their reports, using mainly satellite imagery. The ministry has asked the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre to come up with a comprehensive report and action plan on remedial measures, along with costs, by mid-April. This will involve "ground truthing", or on-the-spot surveys.
Environment secretary Prodipto Ghosh says the action plan will categorise where money needs to be put. How the government chooses to go about it remains to be seen. Restoring coral reefs is, admittedly, a"technical challenge"- and likely to come at a steep financial price. But both coral reefs and mangroves are high on the list of need-to-dos because of their relevance to livelihood.
A parallel effort is the job of drawing a vulnerability line -- a sort of laxman rekha -- along the coast to protect communities and infrastructure against threats from the seaward side. The Space Applications Centre and the Centre for Earth Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram, have been asked to come up with a vulnerability mapping methodology by next month.
Not everything that was damaged, or changed, by the tsunami can be restored -- or needs to be. The ministry just wants to intervene where it's possible, and required because it impacts lives.
There is nothing, for instance, that it can do about changes in coastal geomorphology such as sand dunes or rock formations -- or changes in island patterns due to the tremblor which triggered the tsunami. Salinity levels in groundwater or soil may not need intervention since a couple of monsoons should wash this clean.
The criteria for intervention is four-fold: Where an"ecological entity"suffered significant damage, will not repair itself in a span of five to six years, where damage has the potential to impact the livelihood of one village or more -- and where remedial action is possible. The expertise of institutes involved ranges from ocean management and marine biology to earth science studies, the Forest, Zoological and Botanical Surveys, Central Water Commission, Central Pollution Control Board -- even the Coast Guard.
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News