The Union Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, on Sunday expressed reservations over the proposal to construct a cricket stadium at Edakochi, a mangrove-rich area near Kochi.

“All parties in Kerala stand united on the issue. But we should ask ourselves a question before demanding a stadium in such a mangrove-rich region. What is more important for us — cricket or mangroves?” he asked, while delivering the presidential address in the Fourth Southern Forest Ministers Conference 2011 here.

Mangroves are nature's bio shields and Southern States in the country have a large mangrove cover. “But they are dwindling in an alarming rate... especially in the last 25-30 years,” the Environment and Forests Minister, said.

The Kerala Cricket Association has take up the stadium project in the wake of Kochi becoming part of IPL. However, State-based environmental groups have come out against the stadium, holding that it would pose a threat to mangroves.

He said everyone should remember how mangroves acted as bio shields and protected the surrounding environment during the time of tsunami which hit South India some years back.

The Minister said South Indian States should take new initiatives to regenerate mangrove areas to ensure their preservation, and also for generating livelihood for the local communities.