Department of Science & Technology Kavaratti Lakshadweep

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bulletIntroduction
bullet Biophysical surveys
bullet Infrastructure creation
bullet Capacity building
bullet Awareness creation
bullet Protection measures

1. Introduction

            The Lakshadweep islands are located in a geographical area bounded between 8 and 12ºN and 72 and 74ºE, about 120- 200 nautical miles off the south west coast of India. The Lakshadweep islands are the northernmost part of the Laccadive-Chagos ridge and consist of 11 atolls with about 36 islands on them and several submerged coralline banks. 

            Most of the atolls have low-lying islands on the east, a reef on the west and a lagoon in between. The largest island is Minicoy with a length of about 9 km, and an area of 4.37 km2. The smaller inhabited island is Bitra with an area of 0.1 km2 . The uninhabited islands range in size between 0.01 and 0.46 km2

            Thanks to the vast lagoon and coralline banks, the actual lagoonal area amounts to 4200 km2, compared to the 32 km2 of island area. The spread of the islands is such that the Exclusive Economic Zone of India is extended by another 4,00,000 km2

            The Lakshadweep islands are the only atolls in the Indian waters. Because of their oceanic location and the difficulties of access, most of the reefs remain pristine with little human impact. The earliest biological study on Lakshadweep was that of Gardiner (1903), who described the Minicoy atoll. After Independence, scientists from CMFRI, NIO, CESS and other University Departments have been carrying out various studies on biological, physical and chemical properties and fisheries yield. Though each of these studies addressed a specific question, they were not designed to provide any continuity of observation. 

            The negative impact of such a lacuna was felt most acutely in 1998 when the massive “bleaching episode” occurred worldwide. During the summer of that year, the sea surface temperature in the tropics rose by 1-2ºC above the seasonal maximum. As the corals are quite sensitive to temperature changes, they could not survive, leading to ‘bleaching’ (loss of pigmentation) and eventual death. The extent of mortality varied between different reef regions in India but was the severest in the Lakshadweep. Nevertheless this estimate was only in a qualitative sense, since there was no quantitative measurements of the actual live coral cover prior to the bleaching episode. 

            The coincidence of the bleaching and the workshop on status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR 98) led to the realization that continuous monitoring of the reefs is necessary if the recovery is to be assessed (and assisted if possible) and the changes in the reef quality and the biodiversity composition are to be maintained. Accordingly, the Department of Science and Technology, Union Territory of Lakshadweep, released an initial funding of Rs 5 lakhs in January 1999. Subsequently, this financial support was augmented by grants from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) every year since then, through its Management Action Plans (MAPs) for coral reef areas in India.           

The MAP design adopted for Lakshadweep by the MoEF has a five-pronged approach 

bullet Biophysical surveys
bullet Infrastructure creation
bullet Capacity building
bullet Awareness creation
bullet Protection measures

            The funds were released to the Union Territory of Lakshadweep (UTL). The UTL in turn established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) for achievement of the physical targets. This was overseen by a committee comprising of Dy. Director (Science and Technology) Deputy Conservator of Forests and Dr. Mohideen Wafar. 

            This report, accordingly, details the achievements of physical and financial targets during the period from 1999 to 2002. 

Biophysical surveys 

This section reports on the observations made on corals of ten inhabited and two uninhabited islands of the Lakshadweep since the project began. The data and the summary of the observations are presented in the following pages. 

METHODS OF FIELD SURVEY 

Line intercept transects  

They are used to assess the sessile benthic community of coral reefs. The community was characterized using life form categories, which provide a morphological description of the reef community. Divers who swim along lines, which are placed roughly parallel to the reef zone at different depths, recorded these categories on data sheets. For further monitoring, the location of each site is recorded and marked on the reef. If the expertise of the observer allows the identification of coral species, this methodology may be expanded to include taxonomic data in addition to the life form categories. 

Benthic category

Code

Dead coral with algae

DCA

Dead coral

DC

Coralline algae

CA

Turf algae

TA

Rubble

RB

Sand

S

Zoanthids

ZO

Coral branching

CB

Coral encrusting

CE

Coral massive

CM

Mushroom coral

CMR

Acropora encrusting

ACE

Acropora digitate

ACD

Soft coral

SC

Other

OT

 Manta Tow Survey 

The manta tow technique is used to assess broad changes in the benthic communities of coral reefs. It enables visual assessment of large-scale disturbances such as those caused by cyclonic storms, coral bleaching and outbreaks of Acanthaster (crown-of-thorns starfish). The technique is also useful for selecting sites that are representative of large areas of reef. 

The technique involves towing an observer, using a rope and manta board, behind a small boat powered by an outboard motor. Tows are carried out at a constant speed around the perimeter of a reef and are broken into units of 2 minutes duration. During each 2-minute tow, observations are made on several variables (e.g. percent cover of live coral, dead coral and soft coral). These are recorded onto datasheets as categories. Additional information may be collected, dependent on the survey objectives, e.g. percent cover of sand and rubble, and numbers of Acanthaster, Diadema or Tridacnid clams. 

Agatti 

The Agatti reef was relatively less affected by the bleaching event. The survey during the year 2001 showed that the average live coral cover was about 24%. This increased to about 40% during 2002 indicating a good rate of recovery. The higher abundance of live corals is mainly due to recruitment of Acroporids, especially on the western side of the island. Agatti is remarkable in that it possesses no storm beach: the eastern shore is composed only of sand, rising from the level of the reef flat, which is well exposed at low tides. Almost all corals in the reef flat of eastern side were dead. In the western side reef flat, corals occurred as patches, with close to 90% live cover at some locations 

Kavaratti 

Extensive surveys were made in the year 2001 and 2002. The survey in 2001 showed a live coral cover of 13% in the reef slope. The survey in 2002 showed a notable increase of live cover to about 23%. Kavaratti reef was one among the worst affected by the 1998 bleaching event. However, the recovery appears to have begun well.  In the western side of Kavaratti island consists of reef flat, which get exposed during low tide. This area was surveyed by snorkeling and results showed that the reef was dominated by blue coral Heliopora sp. The live coral coverage was less than 5% and the reef flat consisted of coral boulders covered by algae. The Acroporid corals were the ones severely affected by bleaching event. New recruits of Acropora species are coming up and growth is very fast. Survey team also noted incidences of coral diseases i.e. Black band, white band and pink line syndrome.(Plate – 1) 

Chetlat 

LCRMN surveys were made in the region in the year 2001. The results show the presence of 14% live coral cover in reef slope. The Porites species were dominant in the reef slope followed by the coral Diploastrea sp. Almost all corals were dead in reef flat. Now recruits are coming up. The Acropora and Montipora species are growing fast. Even though the live coral coverage was very less in Chetlat reef slope, the survey team observed a lot of turtles (more than 10 in a single survey).

 

Amini

 

Extensive surveys were made in the year 2001 and 2002. The results and observation showed that the Amini island reefs were much affected by the bleaching event than other islands. Live coral cover in the reef slope was only 8% in the year 2001 and 5.5% in the year 2002. Still the recovery is very slow. All the corals in the reef flat were dead and get exposed during low tide 

 

Minicoy

 

Minicoy island was also much affected by the bleaching event. Extensive surveys were made by the LCRMN personals during the year 2002. The results show the presence of 12% live coral cover in reef slope. The reef flat of eastern side consisted of dead coral boulders. Coral growth in the lagoon was in patches.  Most of corals seen in lagoon were Porites sp. New recruitments of corals were coming up in reef slope. The dominant new recruits of coral species were Acropora sp., Pocillopora sp., Porites sp., Montipora sp and Goniastrea sp.

 

Kiltan

 

    Kiltan island is near to Amini island. The status of coral reefs is better than Amini. The results of LCRMN survey in the year 2001 shows the presence of 15% live coral cover in reef slope. The reef flats of western side reef consisted of coral rubbles in long stretch. Local people enjoy walking over the rubbles during low tide. New recruitment was very poor in reef flat. Large coral colonies of Pocillopora, Platygyra, Porites, Goniastrea and Diploastrea species were recovering fast

 

Kadmat

 

    Kadmat reefs were the maximum affected by bleaching event. Extensive surveys were made during the year 1999 and 2000. Only 9% of live coral cover was present in reef slope during the year 1999. The reef slope of Kadmat Island was in pristine condition during STAPCOR symposium (1998) and the participants were enjoying diving. Western side of Kadmat Island consisted of extensive reef flat. More than 90% of corals were dead. One of the remarkable features in the reef flat was the abundance of  mushroom corals (Fungia sp) when compared to other islands. New recruitments of corals were coming up and recovery was very slow. Subsequent surveys were made in the year 200 and results showed the decline of live coral cover (7%). Some live corals are getting affected by crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci) infection

  

Bangaram 

Extensive surveys were made in the year 2001. The results show the occurrence of 7% live coral cover in reef slope. Bangaram Island is famous for tourism, where a lot of domestic and international tourists are coming every year. The corals of reef flat got much affected by bleaching event but the recovery is good. New recruitments of Acropora coral species are coming up. 

Suheli 

    Suheli is the uninhabited islands at Lakshadweep. It consists of two islands namely Valiyakara and Cheriyakara. LCRMN team stayed there for 15 days in the year 2002 and made extensive surveys. The team observed that the islands might be the best reefs among other islands before bleaching event. The southern side of Cheriyakara reef slope got much affected by the reef slope. The survey results showed the occurrence of 21% live coral cover. The lagoon of these of these islands were very big (more than 18 km2) and consisted coral patches. The Porites corals were dominant in lagoon and they were in good condition. Those colonies affected by bleaching event also recovery fast. One of the remarkable features observed by the survey team was that the islands consisted of rich resources of reef fishes. Suheli island is an important site for tuna fishery. Turtle nesting takes place in sand bar between the two islands. Survey team sighted 12 turtles in reef slope.  

Bitra 

    Bitra is the smallest inhabited island in Lakshadweep. It consists of a very vast lagoon (17 km2). Corals occur in patches in the lagoon. Extensive surveys were made in the year 2001 and results showed the occurrence of 32.5% live coral cover, the highest  among all other islands of Lakshadweep. Bitra islands consisted of good live coral cover and seemed in pristine condition. The survey team observed that new recruitment of corals, in particular, Acropora and Montipora, than in other islands,

Androth 

LCRMN surveys were made during the year 2002 and the results showed the occurrence of 12% of live coral cover in reef slope. The western and southern side reefs were in good condition compared to other sites. One of the interesting observations made by the survey team was the low abundance of reef fishes. Androth reef were much affected by 1998 bleaching event but are now recovering fast.

Kalpeni 

    Live coral cover at Kalpeni Island in 2002, 4 years later than the bleaching, was still only 10%. More than 95% of corals in the western side reef flat were dead. Algal overgrowth of the dead corals was common and this could have been hampering settlement of new recruits.

 3. Capacity Building 

            The biophysical surveys, in order to conform to the pattern adopted by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, needs to be concluded at 10 m depth. This necessitated capacity building at two levels: training in SCUBA diving and training in biophysical survey methods. 

            Training in SCUBA diving was imparted in the first instance to scientists and islanders. The objective of having such a composite team was to develop a comfortable working atmosphere between scientists and islanders and instill confidence in the islanders in their capabilities for underwater work.            

The first batch of trainees: 

§         Dr. Ehrlich Desa

§         Dr. M. Wafar

§         Dr. C. Mohandoss

§         Dr. P. Yennavar

§         Dr. K. Shanmugaraj

§         Mr. T.P. Amanullah

§         Mr. Abdul Kader Jailani

§         Mr. P.P. Ashik

§         Mr. Shahul Hameed

§         Mr. P Koya 

Dr. Desa, Dr. Wafar, Dr. Mohandoss and Dr. Yennavar were from NIO. Dr. Shanmugaraj was deputed by the ICMAM project of DOD as he was working with Gulf of Mannar coral reefs. Mr. Amanullah, Mr. Ashik and Mr. Jailani were unemployed islanders. Mr. Hameed and Mr. Koya were honorary environmental wardens. 

            The training course (28.02.00–12.03.00) was conducted by M/s Laceedives at Kadamat island. Five of the candidates successfully completed CMAS one star diving certificate. The other five acquired a certain degree of proficiency in diving and cleared all theory exams. 

            After the completion of SCUBA training, all the candidates were subjected to training in biophysical survey methods. This consisted of classroom studies and field surveys. In the classroom, the participants were taught how to recognize different coral and algal forms. In the field, they were taught recording different growth forms under supervision. 

            Mr. Rohan Arthur, Mr. C.N. Abdul Rahim (islander) and Dr. Wafar constituted the faculty. 

            The second training course was conducted in February 2002. For this, two candidates each from five islands – Kavaratti, Androth, Amini, Kadmat and Agatti were selected. The strategy was to have at least 2 candidates from each of the ten inhabited islands so as to have a widespread manpower at our disposal. 

            The candidates were: 

            Mr. K. Amir Khan                     -           Kavaratti

            Mr. Syed Abdullah Koya          -           Kavaratti

            Mr. Md. Mustafa                       -           Androth

            Mr. Md. Saifuddeen                 -           Androth

            Mr. Shabeer                            -           Amini

            Mr. Rahmatullah                      -           Amini

            Mr. Moosa Kunhi                     -           Kadamat

            Mr. Md. Iqbal                            -           Kadamat

            Mr. Saifullah Khan                   -           Agatti

            Mr. Abdul Kareem                   -           Agatti 

            From the point of view of safety to life at sea during SCUBA diving, the presence of a diver with advanced skills (ex. Dive Master or Instructor) is necessary, along with the LCRMN participants. To satisfy this requirement, we selected an islander, Mr. K.C. Sikander Hussein, who had more than 300 divers to his credit and experience in ‘managing’ people underwater. He was sent for training as Dive Master at Goa during two sessions (April – May and November 2000) under the supervision of NIO. Since his qualification as Dive Master, he has been leading all the underwater observations made by LCRMN team. 

            The SCUBA qualified manpower available with LCRMN at the moment is as follows: 

            Dr. M.S.S.I. Koya                                -           Dy. Dir (S &T), UTL

            Dr. M.Wafar                                        -           NIO

            Dr. R. Jeyabaskaran                           -           NIO

            Mr. P. Pookoya                                    -           Dept. of S & T, UTL

            Mr. P. Taha                                         -           Dept. of S & T, UTL

            Dr. Sayed Ali                                       -           Dept. of Environment

            Mr. C. N. Abdul Rahim                        -           Dept. of Environment

            Mr. K.P. Mohamed                              -           Dept. of Environment

            Mr. Jabbar                                           -           Dept. of Environment

            Mr. Sheik Sayed Koya                         -           Dept. of Environment

Mr. Shoukath Ali                                  -           Dept. of Tourism

Mr. Kamaruddin                                  -           Dept. of Tourism

Mr. Sayed Ali                                       -           Dept. of Tourism

Mr. T.P.Amanullah                              -           Project Trainee I

Mr. Taha                                              -           Project Trainee I

Mr. K. Amir Khan                                 -           Kavaratti

            Mr. Syed Abdullah Koya                      -           Kavaratti

            Mr. Md. Mustafa                                   -           Androth

            Mr. Md. Saifuddeen                             -           Androth

            Mr. Shabeer                                        -           Amini

            Mr. Rahmatullah                                  -           Amini

            Mr. Moosa Kunhi                                 -           Kadamat

            Mr. Md. Iqbal                                        -           Kadamat

            Mr. Saifullah Khan                               -           Agatti

            Mr. Abdul Kareem                               -           Agatti

  4.  Protection measures

             The main cause of damage to reef and island are removal of coral blocks and collection of shingles. The Union Territory of Lakshadweep has banned the collection or removal of dead and live corals. Only in cases where a landowner specifically requests quarrying of limestones in his land, is he granted a permission to do, that too only up to a maximum of 100 m3, by the Deputy conservator of Forests. After the corals have been brought under Schedule I of the Wildlife Act, even this practice has been discontinued. 

Under protection measures, we had two major activities:           

            The first was engagement of honorary wardens for patrolling duty. The Department of Environment has only 5 regular wardens and this force is grossly inadequate for patrolling the island and the lagoon. Hence at periodic intervals, services of honorary environmental wardens were engaged.  

            The second measure was cleaning the lagoons. At present, entire load of traffic of passengers and cargo passes through the lagoons. This necessitates movements of boats and berthing of cargo vessels in the jetties. As part of promotion of tourism, regularly visitors are brought to the island as well. The combined effect of all these human activities is the disposal of solid wastes in the lagoon. These essentially comprise of old tyres used as shock absorbers in the boats, gunny bags used for transport of merchandise, bricks, plastic bags and bottles and so on. 

            Lagoon cleaning campaign was continually promoted in all islands. The Environmental Warden or personnel of Dept. of Science and Technology in each island was entrusted co-ordination of this activity with Non-Governmental Organization. On 25.10.02 special allowance for lagoon cleaning were released to all islands. On 28 and 29.10.02, 10 voluntary organization, each employing 20 people, did a complete cleaning of the lagoon at Agatti Island. Similar exercise was conducted at Kilton Island immediately thereafter. Cleaning of other lagoons is scheduled to be completed before the financial year. 

            The campaign for lagoon cleaning was also used as a measure to create awareness – of how man-made objects can be detrimental to the reef and how simple precautions can help conserve the reef and lagoon environment. 

5. Awareness creation 

101 Questions on corals 

            When we started the Management Action Plan, the area where lack of awareness was acute and which needed to be addressed immediately, was basic knowledge about the corals and reefs. From managers to tourists and visitors down to common man, there were always questions on aspects like how corals come to be and where they are, what makes them grow and how fast, what they eat, how they reproduce, what they provide us, how they get damaged and what can we do to help them survive. 

            Realizing that there is an urgent need for an information book to answer all this questions in simple language, we wrote the book “101 questions on corals”. A copy of the book is enclosed. This was a good success at creating awareness among a broad section of the society. Already more than 1000 books have been distributed in the islands and in the mainland, including to officials at the Ministry of Environment and Forests. 

Marjan 

            The second major activity of awareness creation was the publication of a book on Traditional knowledge of navigation in the islands, titled ‘Marijan’. Until two decades back, navigation between the islands was made by following the position of stars, interpreting atmospheric and weather features intuitively. This skilled knowledge base was handed down through generations. Such a knowledge base comprises of distribution of reefs, banks and shoals, fisheries around the islands, water movement and currents and sensitivity to some biodiversity components in the reef. With the advent of modern navigation techniques, this knowledge base is getting eroded: at the moment, it is limited to a handful of seasoned sailors, numbering less than a dozen. 

            One of the recommendations of STAPCOR 98, leading to current Management Actions, was that such knowledge should be documented for posterity. Accordingly, a search among the islanders having such experience as sailors has led to the identification of Mr. Kunhi from Kiltan Island. His knowledge was captured, as a book “Marijan” (copy enclosed). This has also been distributed widely in the islands as well as sent to select libraries in the mainland. 

No to plastics 

          Plastics pollution is a menace for reef fauna, especially for the corals. As the islands are small, and as the plastic refuse is likely to end up in the lagoons and the reef, it was considered worth to create awareness on the desirability of not using plastic at all. Accordingly, the environmental wardens in each island were deputed to hold public meetings and explain to the locals the harmful effects of plastics. In addition appeals from the Administrator of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep were printed in large numbers and distributed in all islands. In Kiltan island, papers bags were distributed free of cost to shopkeepers with a view to discourage them from using plastics. The corollary benefits of this were the promotion of employment opportunities (for manufacture of paper bags) in the islands as well as a cleaner environment

Informal discussions 

            An effective means of creating awareness is direct interaction with the public. The divers undertaking biophysical survey discuss, on their return, with the locals and explain to them what is the condition of the reef now, especially with reference to what was before. They also list out the man-made objects they retrieved on every dive. Together these informal chats helped create a better awareness than possible with book or standard lectures. 

            Since the establishment of the Dolphin Dive School, the SCUBA divers of our LCRMN team have put to best use the period in between monitoring dives. They began by taking new visitors to the islands in the lagoons, show them the corals and reefs and explain to them, as a tourist and as a visitor, how he/she can help in conservation. So far, about 300-400 tourists (stakeholders in a technical sense) have benefited from this exercise of awareness creation. 

Publicity material 

            In order to encourage participants from all stakeholders in conservation, we also designed slogans that could get printed on T-shirts, stickers, calendars etc. A set of 10 such slogans, covering major situations of reef damage and what an individual can do to prevent it, were prepared. These are reproduced in the following pages. 

6. Infrastructure creation 

            The initial term of reference to creation of infrastructure was essentially towards the creation of diving facilities essential for biophysical monitoring and for which no equipment was available. Again, the requirements of GCRMN, and on whose pattern the ICRMN and LCRMN were modeled, were essentially on two aspects: biophysical surveys at standard depths with universally agreed growth forms and reef benthic features, and socio-economic monitoring. 

            In carrying forward the project, we realized that environmental monitoring (temperature, nutrients, biological diversity components) is as critical as biophysical monitoring, since the former is the forerunner of events that are likely to happen whereas the latter are post-facto events. Besides there is little need for extensive socio-economic monitoring at a scale envisaged by GCRMN. The Lakshadweep islanders, as an insular community, are dependent on government for all developmental projects and lifestyle changes. Thus all parameters that reflect on socio-economic changes are readily gathered by the Government departments and are available on request. Therefore, we considered that monitoring environmental changes could be strengthened instead of socio-economic surveys (which, however, were done as part of GCRMN exercises). 

            Accordingly, steps to create a LCRMN laboratory at Kavaratti were taken. Conceptually, this laboratory would serve as a central analytical facility. Water and biological samples collected at regular intervals from all islands would be brought to this laboratory, analyzed there and the data inventoried. A building, therefore, was hired at Kavaratti and has been modified to serve as an analytical laboratory. It is hoped that this laboratory would serve eventually other researchers interested in basic sciences. 

           

 


Equipments for Monitoring

Lab Equipments

Monitoring activity & staffs

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