Friday, 27 May, 2022

Laudable move to protect St Martin

Laudable move to protect St Martin

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Saint Martin’s Island is the lone coral island in the country. Because of its diversified and enriched ecosystem and marine environment, it is an ideal habitat for corals. But, unplanned tourism is damaging the coral island. According to press reports, during peak season, around 8,000 tourists visit the island every day. The natural habitat of the island is at risk of irreparable harm from the heaps of plastic waste left behind by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The island is now virtually struggling under the weight of plastic waste. Lots of plastic can be seen on the corals. It is causing the corals to die. Alarmingly, in 38 years, the coral coverage of the island has decreased from 1.32 square kilometres (0.5 square miles) to 0.39 square kilometres (0.15 square miles). This has been revealed from a finding of a research. And, the number of coral species has also decreased from 141 to 41.

Tourism and extraction of coral by fishermen are the main reasons behind destruction of the coral reef habitat. The changing climate is also affecting the corals and their habitat. Frequent cyclones at the island result in displacement of rocks and boulders where corals build their colonies. Irregular rainfall due to changing weather is also affecting the corals as salinity and water transparency are major factors for corals to live and grow well.

Climate change and plastic pollution are taking a toll on the coral island which is gradually heading towards destruction. We might lose the island in the next few years if we do not take care of the island. Then our entire marine biodiversity would be lost in the future. Hopefully, to change the current poor situation as well as generate financial benefit for the country, the government has taken measures to address the pollution in the coastal region and to protect the country’s maritime boundary.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently declared the area as 'St Martin's Marine Protected Area'. The move will undoubtedly help control the movement of ships and motorboats, overfishing, dumping of wastes and harmful chemicals in the sea, destruction of the coral colonies and depletion of biodiversity in the area.