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Ministry considering bio-shields against tsunami
NEW DELHI: The Environment Ministry is considering the idea of developing bio-shields comprising mangrove and non-mangrove species in coastal areas adjoining critical infrastructure projects such as power plants and oil storage depots.
The idea of promoting mangroves and other biological shields to provide a 'speed breaker' was suggested by agricultural scientist and Rajya Sabha MP MS Swaminathan. The suggestion is being followed up by the expert group appointed by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to evaluate additional safeguards against the risk of tsunami.
In a letter to Ramesh, Swaminathan referred to the manner in which dense mangrove forests served as a "speed breaker, reducing the damage done" during the 2004 tsunami which affected Tamil Nadu and other southern states. "The concern now about the safety of nuclear power plants located along the coast such as Kalpakkam and Kudangulam in Tamil Nadu makes me feel that in addition to other steps we should promote bio-shields comprising mangrove and non-mangrove species in coastal areas adjoining nuclear power plants," Swaminathan wrote.
Swaminathan has also suggested that suggested that the coastal areas adjoining the nuclear plants could be declared as critically vulnerable coastline. The senior agricultural scientist said that the idea of using mangroves as line of defence against coastal storms and tsunamis came following a discussion with older generation of Japanese scientists in 1989.
Ramesh has asked the expert group headed by former secretary department of ocean development AM Muthunayagam to follow up on this suggestion.
The four member group is undertaking a review of the current systems for assessing tsunami-type risks as part of the environmental impact assessment of projects in coastal areas. The group will also evaluate additional safeguards that are needed for existing projects and suggest measures to be taken for environmental impact assessments for future projects.
Additionally, the ministry's expert appraisal committees relating to industry, infrastructure, thermal power, and nuclear power have been to "deliberate on tsunami-related risks and to examine how they can be included in the terms of reference for environment impact assessment for future projects."
Ramesh has said that since a large number of critical infrastructure projects would have to be developed in coastal areas, there was a need to establish the carrying capacity of the 5,400 km of the country's main coastline. The ministry has already initiated the exercise of hazard line mapping along the coastlines.
This is being undertaken by the Survey of India and will be completed in 24 months.
Earlier this year, the ministry had delinked the management of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands from the coastal regulation zone notification. This was done in recognition of the dangers posed to these islands by the natural disasters including earthquakes and tsunami. A separate Island Protection Zone notification had been issued in January. This calls for an Integrated Island Management Plan for each of the 340 islands of A&N and 32 islands of Lakshadweep taking into account the natural disasters including the tsunami like event.
(Courtesy: The Economic Times, March 18, 2011)