Mangroves are the comrades of the coastal expanse. From providing breeding grounds for fish to carbon storage, to protecting against flooding or storm surge, this diverse bio-network supports the planet and people incredibly. During the time, when mangroves were exploited perpetually for numerous reasons, a small group of people from the Kendrapada district of Odisha had rolled up their sleeves to save this vital inland forest. They have donated their registered lands for mangrove plantations with the aid provided by Odisha’s Forest department. The Bhitarkanika forest officials call such people ‘Mangrove Mitra’ or Friends of Mangroves as a token of respect and honour.
One such mangrove mitra is Dilip Kumar Mandal from Khamarsahi Panchayat nearby Dangamal of Bhitarkanika Mangrove forest. Acknowledging the relevance of the forest, he also donated his 2 acres of agricultural land to contribute his assistance in the mangrove protection drive. Due to the rise in Inland mangrove destruction, the forest officials frequently visit the peripheral villages and spread awareness among the locals to get refrain from mangrove exploitation.
“I literally understood the importance of mangroves when I witnessed the impact of Cyclone Yash over the coastal plains and the patches of Mangroves Forest. I realized why forest officials were stressing upon Mangrove conservation and how special Mangrove is for us that saves us from several adversities.”
The forest department has finished plantation work in Dillip’s donated riverside agri-land. Measuring the relevance of Mangroves in the Bhitarkanika region, another person from the same village also donated his land for mangrove plantation. Similarly, a few people from Gadiamal village also donated 4 acres of land to raise the mangrove expansion. Subsequently, in the past two years, many people offered their lands to resemble their collective resistance against the destruction of mangroves.
“We feel proud when someone acknowledges us as Mangrove Mitras. The donation made by us has been 100 times more satisfaction than using that land for mere cultivation. Mangrove ecosystem is our true friend. It not only saves us from cyclones but also serves the entire coastal habitation. This feeling makes us happy that our land can be utilized for a good purpose.”
Mangroves, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs work as a single system that keeps coastal zones healthy. With one foot on land and the other in the sea, mangroves live their life on the edge. Yet, they are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. The sea has no meaning without its mangrove forests. It is like having a tree without roots because mangroves are the roots of the sea. They are the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystem on the planet. However, this is also the reason for its unceasing degradation as it is exploited 4 times higher than overall global forest loss. In such a situation, the donation of land by the native individuals would undoubtedly raise the morale of forest officials. The movement could usher the feeling of mangrove protection and boost the mangrove rehabilitation process in the entire coastal stretch. As Mangroves provides the buffer zone between sea and terrestrial area, the influx of Mangrove Mitras for the conservation drive would definitely resurrect the lost glory of Hental mangroves soon.