In Lakshadweep’s Bangaram island, the terrain has white rubble, a graveyard of dead coral.
The death of live corals in the Arabian Sea could have an impact on the survival of the Lakshadweep islands because coral reefs act as natural breakwaters which minimise the impact of waves from powerful storms such as cyclones and typhoons.
Besides, live coral reefs support an estimated twenty-five per cent of all marine life, with over 4,000 species of fish alone.
So why is the coral in the Lakshadweep chain dying out?
The answer is global warming, which affects ocean biology and ocean biology in turn influences our climate and if either don’t work then we all suffer.
In fact, there is already clear-cut evidence of how a rise in sea water temperatures can be catastrophic for India’s coral reef. In 1998, a temporary change in the climate of the Pacific Ocean linked to the El Nino effect devastated corals in the Arabian Sea.
For Mitali Kakar who has been diving in these waters for sixteen years, the death of the stunning coral treasures in the Lakshadweep chain is a wake-up call. The islanders can do very little to control global warming but its critical to protect what remains of the coral reef.
”There are very few coral atolls left in the world and they are here in India but they may not be around for much longer and we have to protect them. They act as thermometers of the ocean and are very fragile,” said Mitali Kakar, Reefwatch Marine Conservation.
So is it all over then for India’s corals? Is this a basket case?
Fortunately, no. While some of the coral reefs around the islands have been reduced to rubble, there are remarkable signs of recovery elsewhere.
A lot of young coral can be seen which has shown the resilience to survive the rise in sea water temperatures so far. Apart from this, the local fishermen hunt for Tuna in deeper waters and do not depend on fishing off the reef for their survival.
The lesser the human presence, the greater the possibility of coral recovery in these islands.
The year 2008 is the international year of the reef, an opportunity to highlight the importance of corals, which are living organisms and have evolved over 200 to 300 million years.
The Maldives-Chago-Lakshadweep chain of islands in the Arabian Sea is the largest coral atoll system in the world, a system that stands squarely at a crossroads.