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Kochi, Feb. 3

IT is an ecological success story enacted in Thailand and is worthy of emulation by coastal districts in the Gulf of Mannar and Kerala.

The spin-offs from this ecological restoration programme have not only revitalised the coastal fishing grounds in the southern province of Trang in Thailand and enhanced the catch of the local fishermen, but also revived coral reefs, brought back the sea turtle and dugong to their traditional habitats and also gave a fillip to tourism which is one of the biggest boom industry in today's Thailand.

Under the guidance of an association called Yadfon (raindrop), a small coastal village tried to revive its badly degraded communal-use mangrove forests, which had been leased out by the Government to private concessionaires for extraction of wood and conversion to aquaculture ponds. This resulted in strong resistance from the concessionaires and led to confrontation.

So the villagers started replanting the mangrove forests in their vicinity instead, which received recognition and approval from the government, a study conducted by Dr John Kurian of the Centre for Development Studies pointed out.

The forest department soon stepped in and designated 100 hectares as `community managed mangrove forests'. The area was soon extended to encompass six reclaimed forest lands in Yadfon area of work. "Fish, shell fish, squids and turtles returned. Children and women could catch enough crabs in the mangrove swamps to earn the livelihood they earlier got from chopping mangrove forests, the study `Blessing of the Commons - Small scale fisheries, community property rights and coastal natural rights' said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 4, 2005)
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