Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur are among the most vulnerable districts affected by cyclones and climate change in coastal Odisha. In the last few decades, the coasts of Odisha have witnessed three major devastating storms. The Super Cyclone, Cyclone Phailin and the Cyclone HudHud all severely disrupted the livelihoods of communities in the region.
However, there are villages like Praharajpur in the coastal area of Kendrapada district, where the loss of life and property was less thanks to the mangrove cover.
In the context of India and particularly Odisha, recent studies have proposed that mangrove conservation could be an adaptive strategy for coastal communities, as it acts as a natural barrier, protecting the life and property of coastal communities from storms and cyclones and also providing a broad range of goods and services to the people.
In the last 60 years, the total mangrove area in Odisha fell from 30,766 hectares (ha) to 17,900 ha between 1944 and 1999. However, per annual activity report 2014-15, Forest and Environment Department, Government of Odisha, total achievement under the coastal mangrove plantation component is 2,920 ha and the total mangrove area is still not more than 21,000 ha.
In February 2011, to build climate resilient communities and to reduce extreme poverty in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts in Odisha, the Regional Centre for Development Cooperation (RCDC) implemented the Paribartan project. The project was designed to increase mangrove cover in the area to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
RCDC conducted a Community Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (CRVA) exercise in Jagatsinghpur district and found that Naupal village in the Kusupur Panchayat at Balikuda block of Jagatsinghpur district was the most affected village due to lack of mangrove cover.
A meeting was organised at Naupal, where the RCDC staff explained why Naupal was among the most affected villages, and recommended the need for mangrove plantation in the area.
In 2013, the villagers of Naupal, procured and planted 4,500 mangrove saplings from local NGOs. Unfortunately, the saplings were adversely affected by Cyclone Phailin that occurred within a few months of the plantation activity. The saplings that survived did not grow well. The varieties planted were Sinduka and Bani.
In the next phase of mangrove plantation, the villagers were more careful and decided to plant more saplings and grow the saplings locally. The idea of growing mangrove saplings locally appealed to villagers because it seemed sustainable, and would also open up new livelihood possibilities for the community.
A Gram Paribartan Committee (GPC) was constituted in the village to monitor mangrove plantations. The GPC identified five households in the hamlet of Naupal. The families that were selected had working experience of managing mangrove nurseries.
A female member from each of the chosen households was selected as a representative. For supervision, each household was paid Rs. 168 per day for 26 days of work in a month by the RCDC. One family member would supervise for 26 days in a month. As the project would pay all their input costs, the saplings would be the property of the project once they were ready for plantation.
The five households maintained 25 mangrove beds altogether. Each bed contained 5500 saplings. Out of 25 beds, 17 were devoted to Bani, six to Kaliachua and two to Rai, types of mangrove species available and flourishing in the area.
Selection of nursery site
The selection of a site for mangrove nursery is the first important step in the nursery establishment. The location of the nursery influences the survival rate of saplings. Some important criteria to considered are as below:
- Relatively flat land
- Closeness to fresh water sources
- Easy transportation access
- Good drainage (not waterlogged)
- Mechanisms to allow periodic inundation
- Access to good quality salt and fresh water
- Shade regulation
- Good quality propagation
- Proximity to the planting site
“Supervision of mangrove saplings is critical as crabs tend to eat the seedlings. It is necessary to do the weeding work regularly and also to ensure that the main and feeder canals do not get clogged”, says Gurupada Das, a resident of Naupal.
A similar process of mangrove plantation was simultaneously carried out in the Rajnagar block of Jagatsinghpur district which has resulted in raising 38,000 saplings.
Here, six households took care of the entire operations. In all 65,500 saplings have been planted in the project site and preliminary assessment shows a survival rate of 70% which is very encouraging.
Work on the mangrove nursery continued for nine months since October 2014. It required three months to set up the nursery and then six months of supervision. The plantation work began in July 2015 and ended in August 2015.
"Mangrove plantation work provided employment to the villagers, reduced migration and improved agricultural activities in our area," says Ms Jayanti Das, another resident of Naupal, in a jubilant mood.
Benefits of Mangrove cover:
- Mangroves also provide fuel wood and construction materials. They attract a variety of fish and crabs, presenting another livelihood alternative. Once planted, mangroves tend to expand on their own as the trees drop seedlings as they grow, which then constitute new forests. The seedlings that float away also become the source of forests in suitable areas.
These villagers now feel that only mangroves can protect them from cyclones and sea surges. Mangrove plantation can become a livelihood option for a section of the community members who are landless or have lost their cultivable land to sea ingress or salinity.
(Jagannath Chatterjee is a Senior Climate Justice researcher working with RCDC, Bhubaneswar.The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of India Water Portal.)