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Country Overview

The Indian mainland stretches from 8°4' to 37°6' N latitude and from 68°7' to 97°25' E longitude. India is the seventh-largest country by area in the world, and the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people. India neighbours with Tibet, the Republic of China, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Burma. The Southern peninsula extends into the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean with the Bay of Bengal lying to the south-east and the Arabian Sea to the south-west. The sea around India is part of the great Indian Ocean, and the Indian subcontinent forms a major physical division between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean. The Bay of Bengal LME extends from the northern coastal state of West Bengal to the country’s southernmost point. Several major rivers discharge into the Bay of Bengal along the coastline, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery (Sampath, 2003).

India has a coastline of 8,118 km, of which 4,645 km is part of the Bay of Bengal LME (Sampath 2003). India has a wide range of ecosystem types, including mangroves, creeks, tidal flats, mud flats and coral reefs. Coral reefs spread over an area of 7,392 km2 within the country’s territorial waters, and which represents about 2.6% of the world total. Thirty-two percent of these are within the Bay of Bengal area (BOBLME, 2012). It is worth noting that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands alone provide 88% of the coral reefs of India (BOBLME, 2012).

Total fish production by India is about 7.85 million tonnes, out of which marine capture fisheries contribute 3.32 million tonnes: a sector that provides nutrition and livelihoods for at least 40 million people (Salim and Narayanakumar, 2012).

MPAs in India

The marine protected area network in India has been used as a tool for managing natural marine resources for biodiversity conservation, and for the well - being of people dependent on them. The government first began formally setting aside marine areas for conservation purposes for the protection of wetland and bird migrating in 1967, despite the lack of clear legislation.

Marine protected areas in India have been officially declared for: (i) conserving and protecting either critical ecosystems or species; and (ii) for maintaining coastal and marine biodiversity. To date, however, they have not yet been established as tools for fisheries management (Rajagopalan, 2008). The map above shows the distribution of marine protected area in India while they are listed in MPA database (BOBLME, 2011).

According to the Constitution of India, both the State and Central governments have the power to legislate on the subject of forests and the protection of wild animals. India has designated the main Central legislation relevant for the designation of PAs, as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, community reserves, conservation reserves and tiger reserves. It is the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA 1972) as amended in 2002 and 2006.

At the national level, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the primary agency responsible for the conservation of India’s biodiversity. It is responsible for implementing the WLPA and the Environmental Protection Act, and works through the Department of Forests (DoF) at the state level. The DoF is in turn is directly charged with managing protected areas. The Coast Guard (under the Department of Defence) enforces many of the regulations in marine parks and sanctuaries.

The Departments of Fisheries (DoF) of the state governments also play a tangential role in MPA management by managing fisheries resources through the enactment of legislation and regulations. For instance, the DoF Orissa has worked to protect turtle nesting grounds in the Gahirmatha (Marine) Wildlife Sanctuary in Orissa since 2003, by introducing zoning and fishing regulations on an annual basis (FAO 2010). Other government agencies involved in MPAs include the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture – both of which conduct research on coastal and marine ecosystems (FAO 2010).

  • BOBLME. 2011. Status of Marine Protected Areas and Fish Refugia in the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem. BOBLME – 2011 – Ecology – 10.
  • BOBLME. 2012. Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis Report (Volume 2). BOBLME.
  • Sampath, V. 2003. National report on the Status and Development Potential of the Coastal and Marine Environment of the East Coast of India and its Living Resources. BOBLME Report, 406p.
  • Shyam S. Salim and R.Narayanakumar, 2012. Manual on World Trade Agreements and Indian Fisheries Paradigms: A Policy Outlook.
  • Singh. 2003. Marine Protected Area in India. Indian Journal of Marine Sciences. 32(3): 226-233.
  • World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). 2013. last accessed October 2013.
  • Burke, L., K. Reytar, M. Spalding, and A. Perry. 2011. Reefs at Risk Revisited. WRI. Washington, DC, US. 114 pp.
  • A:MoEF. 2013. Ministry of Environment and Forests last accessed October 2013.
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