inbriefclimate | VOL. 9, ISSUE 56, September-October 2009 |

Ecosystem Under Threat: Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep, islands of coral origin, are mainly atolls except for one platform reef of Androth. The height of the land above the sea level is about 1 to 2 meters. The Lakshadweep group of islands comprise of 36 islands (11 inhabited, 16 uninhabited with attached islets, 4 newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs), covering an area of 32 sq km with Kavaratti as the Capital. According to the provisional population data of 2001 Census, Lakshadweep has a population of 60,595 persons. More than 93 per cent of the indigenous population is Muslims and majority of them belong to the Shafi School of the Sunni Sect. The density of population is 1899 persons per sq km, third highest in the country and a serious cause of concern for the fragile ecosystem. Changing life style and burgeoning population have led to increased generation of sewage and solid wastes. Untreated domestic wastes are discharged directly into the sea without treatment. Solid wastes are dumped on the narrow shore line, behind each row of houses. It is estimated that about 1.2 million litres of waste per day is generated at Kavaratti alone. There is an absence of a systematic sewerage system – most households have constructed soak pits for disposal of latrine waste. Owing to acute pressure on land, the soak pits are very close to open wells. The soil being sandy and porous, faecal matter from soak pits finds its way into the water in open wells. The non-degradable solid wastes are dumped at one end of each island by local bodies. Ongoing resource harvest from reefs has brought several reefs in Lakshadweep under various degrees of stress. Coastal erosion is a serious problem faced by the islands every year resulting in loss of land. Maximum erosion observed over a period of 35 to 40 years were in the range 28 to 44 meters. Degradation of lagoon and coral ecosystems (eutrophication) are also visible. Unplanned and mismanaged fishing, tuna and bait fishing, reef walking, octopus hunting, shell collection, coral harvesting, tourism and related activities such as diving, snorkelling, operation of glass bottom boats, etc., are proving to be detrimental for the ecosystem. There is a growing dependence on the sole desalination plant recently set up for supply of safe drinking water. Diesel is the only source of electricity generation and there is poor connectivity between the islands and the mainland.

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