In her budget speech, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitaram, mentioned in passing an initiative called MISHTI, for ‘Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes’. Under MISHTI, the finance minister said, mangrove plantation would be taken up along the coastline and on salt pan lands, through convergence between MGNREGS, a social security scheme that provides work to rural folk and CAMPA Fund, which is a pool of money for making afforestation. 

It may be intriguing why the humble mangroves took root in a budget speech, but these coastal plants, which live half-buried in salt water but need fresh water to flower and fruit, are set to play an important role in India meeting its ‘net zero’ targets. 

Nature-based solution

Mangroves are the best carbon sinks in the plant kingdom—they store up to five times as much organic carbon as the trees in tropical forests. As such, they are great carbon credit earners. 

Globally, many companies that have pledged to bring their net carbon emissions to zero by a certain year, are looking to buying carbon credits. Carbon credits from ‘nature-based solutions’, such as afforestation, sell for more dollars than others, such as renewable energy. According to one industry insider, ocean-based carbon credits (called ‘blue credits’), which includes mangroves can sell for $13 a credit. 

Sensing this business opportunity, many companies are putting down money in mangroves, with a view to reaping the carbon credits that can be sold in the market. A good example is the tie-up that Shell made with the BSE-listed EKI Energy, to develop mangroves. 

Globally, mangrove forests have been destroyed because of land-use change. According to one estimate , the world today has only half the mangroves that it did in the 1950s. 

According to the India State of Forest, 2021, a report published once in two years by the Forest Survey of India, the country had 4,975 sq km of mangroves in 2019 (0.15 per cent of India’s land) compared with 4,482 sq km in 2001. 

The MISHTI initiative could help India secure international funding for meeting its emission reduction target through the mechanism of carbon markets.