Saving an island from extinction

After launching a concerted effort involving experts of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and Anna University, the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park has savedVaan Tivuor Sky Island, one of the 21 islands in the park, from submergence.

Careful observation showed that the island, one of a quartet in the Thoothukudi group, spread over 16 hectares in 1986, had shrunk to 2.5 hectares in 2014. Alarmed by the shrinkage, the park launched an ‘Island and coral stabilisation project.’

Under the project, artificial reef (AR) modules weredeployed around the island.

Sky Island is the southernmost of the 21 islands in the Gulf of Mannar, India’s only biosphere reserve with rich marine biodiversity of more than 4,000 species of marine flora and fauna.

Giving details of the third phase of the project, funded by the State’s environment department, T.K. Ashok Kumar, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, said after the launch of the project, the island was intact and witnessed no further erosion. The erosion had been stabilised after deployment of artificial reef modules.

Experts from the Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT–Madras, Institute of Ocean Management, Anna University, and marine oceanographers were involved in designing the trapezium shape modules. They were deployed around the island after vulnerable spots were identified with the help of divers.

“After launching the first phase in 2015, we have so far deployed around 2,500 AR modules. They have arrested further erosion,” Mr. Kumar said.

Initially, the department had deployed two-metre tall concrete modules. But they had been reduced to one metre in the ongoing third and final phase. The modules were taken in a barge and deployed with the help of a crane.

The Marine National Park had also launched coral rehabilitation work around Kariyachalli island, which too belonged to the Thoothukudi group. Frames with coral grooves and concrete slabs with coral tips had been deployed around the island. A year after the launch of the project, the corals had started regenerating, Mr. Kumar added.

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