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Report of

the Task Force on




For the Eleventh Five Year Plan


Government of India


New Delhi

(March, 2007)

Report of the Task Force on


For the Eleventh Five Year Plan



Constitution order for Task Force on Islands, Corals, Mangroves
and Wetlands 1-6

Chapter 1: Islands 5-24

1.1 Andaman & Nicobar Islands 5-17

1.2 Lakshwadeep Islands 18-24

Chapter 2: Coral reefs 25-50

Chapter 3: Mangroves 51-73

Chapter 4: Wetlands 74-87

Chapter 5: Recommendations 88-93

Chapter 6: References 94-103


Planning Commission

(Environment & Forests Unit)

Yojana Bhavan, Sansad Marg,

New Delhi, Dated 21st August, 2006

Subject: Constitution of the Task Force on Islands, Corals, Mangroves & Wetlands for the Environment & Forests Sector for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-2012).

It has been decided to set up a Task Force on Islands, corals, mangroves & wetlands for the Environment & Forests Sector for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. The composition of the Task Force will be as under:

  1. Shri J.R.B.Alfred, Director, ZSI Chairman

  2. Shri Pankaj Shekhsaria, Kalpavriksh, Pune Member

  3. Mr. Harry Andrews, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust , Tamil Nadu Member

  4. Dr. V. Selvam, Programme Director, MSSRF, Chennai Member

Terms of Reference of the Task Force will be as follows:

  • Review the current laws, policies, procedures and practices related to conservation and sustainable use of island, coral, mangrove and wetland ecosystems and recommend correctives.

  • Similarly review the institutional and individual capacities available to address issues related to conservation and sustainable use of island, coral, mangrove and wetland ecosystems and recommend how they may be adequately strengthened.

  • Assess the current issues and systems of integrating concerns relating to fragile island, coral, mangrove, and wetland ecosystems into other sectors (ministries, departments) and to recommend required new or remedial measures.

  • Review the current EIA laws, policies, procedures and practices as being applied in the island, coral, mangrove and wetland ecosystem context and recommend corrective measure to address significant issues that specifically arise in the context of these fragile ecosystems.

  • Assess the potential impacts of climate change on island, coral, mangrove and wetland ecosystems and recommend required new or remedial measures of dealing with these impacts.

  • Ministry of Environment & Forests will provide basic information and data input to the Task Force as and when required.

  • The Chairperson of the Task Force will be free to co-opt any official / non-official as special invitee for its meeting.

  • The non-official members will be paid TA/DA by the Planning Commission as per SR 190 (a) for attending meetings of the Task Force.

  • The Task Force will submit its report to the Chairman, Working Group on Wildlife, Bio-diversity, traditional knowledge and Animal Welfare by 31.10.2006.

  • Shri M. Ravindranath, Joint Adviser (E&F), Room No. 301, Yojana Bhavan (Tel No. 2309 6536) will be the Nodal Officer for the Task Force for all further communications.

Dr S K Khanduri

Director (Forestry)

Copy forwarded to: All Members of the Working Group.

* * * * *



Dr J.R.B.Alfred,

Former Director,

Zoological Survey of India,

522 C Lake Gardens


Kolkata - 700 045.

Shri Pankaj Shekhsaria,


Apartment 5, Sri Dutta Krupa,

908 Deccan Gymkhana,

Pune 411004
Mr. Harry Andrews

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust ,

Centre for Herpetology,

Post Bag 4,

Mamallapuram- 603 104

Tamil Nadu

Dr. V. Selvam,

Programme Director,

Coastal Research Systems

MSSRF, 322, IInd Main Road,
Mariappanagar North

Annamalai Nagar (Post)

Chidambaram 600 802

Cuddalore district

MoEF Representatives

Dr. J.R.Bhatt,


Ministry of Environment & Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan,
CGO Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi - 110 003
Tel.: 011-24367622

Dr. S.Kaul,


Ministry of Environment & Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan,
CGO Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi - 110 003
Tel. 011-24360492
Co-opted Members

Dr. E.V. Muley

Additional Director (IT)
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan,
CGO Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi - 110 003
Telefax : 011-24364593
Cell : 9810033288
e-Mail : &

Dr. K Venkataraman


National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai

* * * * *

Chapter 1: ISLANDS

1.1 The Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago consists of over 345 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, with land area extending up to 8,249 km2 and a coastline stretch of 1,962 km; the Andaman Islands constitute 6408 km2 and the Nicobars 1841 km2. The Andaman Islands are the extension of the submerged Arakan Yoma Mountain range of Myanmar and the Nicobars are the continuation of the Mentawai Islands to the south and southeast of Sumatra. These two island groups situated in the Bay of Bengal span 645′ N to 1341′ N (740 km) and 9212′ E to 9357′ E (190 km). The nearest land mass to Great Nicobar Island is Sumatra, 145 km southeast; and the Myanmar coast is roughly 280 km north of Landfall Island, the northern- most island in the Great Andaman group.

The geology of both island groups has been described in detail (Oldham 1885; Gee 1925; Mahadevan & Easterson, 1983). The topography of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is hilly and undulating, the elevation in the Andamans is from 0 to 732 m, Saddle Peak being the highest in North Andaman Island. In the Nicobars the elevation rises from 0 to 568 m, Mt Thuillier being the highest peak on Great Nicobar Island. The Andaman Islands support one of the world’s most extensive mangrove ecosystems, almost 101,172 ha (Balakrishnan, 1989). Due to their long isolation, these islands have evolved significant diversity of flora and fauna with a high level of endemism; including Andaman affinities to Indo- China and Nicobar affinities to the Indo- Malayan (Das, 1999).

Of the 306 islands in the Andamans and Nicobars, 33 are inhabited, 94 are designated as sanctuaries, including six areas as national parks, two of which are marine national parks, two areas and two islands as tribal reserves in the Andamans. The land area of 6408 km² in the Andamans constitutes 90% as reserves and protected areas of which 36% is tribal reserves. The entire Nicobar group is a tribal reserve and has four wildlife sanctuaries, two national parks and one biosphere reserve. The status, flora, fauna and profiles of all the protected areas for both island groups has been discussed in detail (Pande et al. 1991; Andrews & Sankaran 2002; ANET, 2003). Settlers from mainland India, numbering over 400,000, inhabit the Andaman Islands and the three original inhabitants; are marginalised to small areas in the Andaman Islands.

Ecological Profile

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) consists of very fragile island ecosystems and some of the most pristine in the world. These ecosystems are very diverse and support very unique flora and fauna. Both these island groups are a distinct eco region and are classified as one of the 12 biogeographical zones of India by Rogers & Panwar (1988). These same authors in their biogeographic classification of India have classified these islands as 10A/B. The landscape for large islands emerges from sea grass beds, coral reef or rocky outcrops, to beaches, littoral forest, Andaman slope forests, hilltops, into valleys and streams. Some of the dominant tree species in these luxuriant forests reach heights of 40- 60 m. In some areas in the Andamans along the west and the east coast, the landscape starts from reefs or rocky outcrops to steep rock faces with wind blown vegetation. The topography of all large islands in the Andamans, Little Andaman, Little Nicobar and Great Nicobar Islands, is mostly interlaced with perennial and seasonal freshwater streams and in some areas a matrix of mangrove creeks extending into marshes. Little Andaman Island has ecosystems that do not occur anywhere else in the Andamans or the Nicobars, mainly extensive fresh and saline water marshes and peat

Of the total forest cover, dense forests with crown density of 40 % and above constitute 85. 9 %, open forests with crown density less than 40 % constitute 1. 7%. The mangroves occupy 12 % of the land area. The mangrove ecosystem are protected, in the Andaman Islands. Mangroves cover an area of 929 km² and in the Nicobar the extent is 37 km² (Balakrishnan, 1989; Andrews & Sankaran, 2002). Grasslands are unique to the central group the Nicobars and occur on low hillsides of Teressa, Bompoka, Nancowry and Camorta and in the central part of Trinket. Lowland grasslands are restricted to Great Nicobar Islands mainly on the inland riverbanks (Pande et. al., 1991; Sankaran, 1995; ANET, 2003).

The Andaman and Nicobars are fringed by one of the most spectacular reefs in the world and, currently they are not only significant for the Indian Ocean region, but are also globally significant (Kulkarni, 2000; 2001; Vousden, 2000; Turner et al., 2001; Andrews & Sankaran, 2002). These same authors have reported that the Andaman reefs consist of about 83% of maximum coral diversity found any where in the world and is equal to the “Coral Triangle” of Indonesia, and about 400 species could emerge after further surveys.

Species richness, diversity and site specifics


The only primate, the Nicobar crab eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis umbrasa) occurs in the southern group of the Nicobar Islands. Miller (1902) was the first to list most of the mammals for both island groups. Since then, over 60 species have been reported; and these include several species of shrews that are endemic, rats and a palm civet (Paguma larvata tyleri). Others include bats of 32 species in the Andamans and Nicobars (Nath & Chaturvedi, 1975); Chakraborty, 1978; Saha, 1978; Das, 1997; 1998; Aul, 2003; Aul & Vijayakumar, 2003). Invertebrate groups represented include spiders (62 species); dragonflies (36 species), termites (26 species), holothurians (68 species), chitons (13 species), hermit crabs (38 species), copepods (172 species), amphipods (110 species), polychaetes (186 species) and nematodes (54 species). The butterfly diversity is very high and 298 species and 236 subspecies in 116 genera have been reported (Rao & Dev Roy, 1985; Khatri, 1989; 1993; 1994; 1995; 1997; 1998 Devy et al., 1994; Khatri & Chandra, 1995). Among the avifauna 270 species and subspecies have been reported for ANI so far, 126 within the Andamans and 56 for the Nicobars (Sankaran & Vijayan, 1993; Islam & Rahmani, 2004). 17 are ‘Globally Threatened’ and are Restricted Range species. ANI has also been designated as one of the ‘Endemic Bird Areas’ (EBA) of the world (Statterfield et al., 1998; Islam & Rahmani, 2004); (Sankaran, 1993, 1995, 1996). The giant robber crab (Brigus latro) occurs in the southern Nicobars, in South Bay in Little Andaman, and South Sentinel Islands (Davis and Altevogt, 1976; Andres & Sankaran, 2002; Jayaraj & Andrews, 2005). Seven species of freshwater fishes have been previously rejoined. Lim & Das (in prep.) are reporting several new species and new records from two national parks, Mount Harriet NP and Saddle Peak NP (Ali et al., 2002).

The reptile and amphibian fauna comprises over 125 species and is diverse with an assemblage of several species of frogs and toads. Reptiles include several species of lizards, geckos, snakes and four species of marine turtles. The mega species in the Andamans include the king cobra (Ophiophagus Hannah), the Andaman cobra (Naja sagittifera), water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), and saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). In the Nicobars the mega herpetofauna includes the Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) on Great and Little Nicobar Islands, the sunbeam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor), the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the reticulated python (Python reticulates) in the southern Nicobar group, besides several species of pit vipers in the central Nicobars (Das, 1994; Krishnan, 2003; Vijaykumar, 2003; Whitaker & Captain, 2004). Four species of marine turtles, leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) also feed and nest around the Andaman and Nicobars (Bhaskar, 1993; Das, 1994; Daniels & David, 1996; Das, 1999b; Andrews & Whitaker, 1998; Andrews & Tripathy, 2003; Jayaraj & Andrews, 2005; Andrews & Vaughan, 2005).

Species richness and diversity are very high in areas and islands where intensive surveys and studies have been conducted. Of the 27 species of reptiles and amphibians recorded for Mount Harriet National Park, 12 are endemic and these represent 80% recorded for the Andaman Islands (Das, 1997). Chanda (1996; 1997) reported 120 species of moths for the same park with new additions to the moth fauna of India. The avifauna in Saddle Peak National Park is also diverse; of the 88 species recorded 49 are endemic (Chanda & Rajan, 1996). Balachandran (1998) recorded 393 plant and tree species for Mount Harriet National Park of which 74 are endemic.

Aul (2003) reported 13 species of bats for the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park and this is 50% of the 26 species reported for the Andaman Islands and these included three new records and an endemic. Two freshwater fishes have been were recorded from Saddle Peak National Park, a secondary freshwater fish Sicyopterus microcephalus could turn out as an endemic, the other species identified, Belobranchus belobranchusa, from the same park is a new record for the islands. Likewise, several other species have been from Mount Harriet National Park and some of these will be new species descriptions and new records for the islands (Lim & Das, in prep; Ali et. al., 2002). Turner et. al. (2001) also has reported high coral diversity for this park. They have reported 42- 88 coral species around five islands in this national park. Kulkarni, et al., (2000) and Kulkarni, et al., (2004) have reported 222 coral species within the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. Das (1996) has recorded the sea grass meadows in the Ritchie’s Archipelago to be the most extent in the Andamans, with meadow sizes ranging from 300- 3000 m long and accounting for the highest species richness, when compared to the rest of the Andamans. Mall, et al., (1987) reported 16 of 34 mangroves species found in the Andamans from Rani Jhansi Marine National Park.


In all, over 1200 species of fishes have been reported from the surrounding seas of the islands and of these 300 are commercial species (Talwar, 1990; Rajan, 2003; Devi & Rao, 2003 b). Rajan, (2003) has reported on the 282 commercially important fish species and Devi & Rao (2003a) recorded 147 species of marine fishes belonging to 33 families as poisonous and venomous, found around the ANI. Rao (2004) has reported over 200 species of reef fishes for the islands and Rajan (2001) has previously reported 43 groupers and 42 species of snappers. Besides, Rao et al., (2000) have reported 539 species of ichthyofauna, including 53 new records for the islands; and Subba Rao & Dey 2000) have reported 1282 species of mollusca from 145 families and 372 genera for the Andaman and Nicobars. Dev Roy & Das (2000) have recorded 51 species of mangrove crabs belonging to 33 genera from 10 families and Wells & Rao (1987) have reported 128 species of meiofauna from both island groups. Devi & Rao (2003b) have reported 21 species belonging to five genera of surgeonfish and the occurrence of 12 species of rabbit fish. Rao & Devi (2004) have also discussed 33 species of butterfly fish which is 27% of the world species and the same authors have recorded nine species of clown fish and four species of anemones making it one of the most diverse in the world.

Status surveys and studies in these islands have recorded India’s best nesting beaches for three species - leatherbacks, hawksbills and green turtles. The presences of green turtle and hawksbill feeding grounds have also been confirmed (Bhasker, 1993; Andrews et. al. 2001). The hawksbill population in the Andamans and Nicobars are the largest for India and most important for the Northern Indian Ocean region. The leatherback nesting population in the Nicobar is one of the last four large colonies that exceeds 1000 individuals in the Indo-Pacific, and hence of global significance (Andrews & Shanker, 2002; Andrews et. al. 2002).


The flora and the history of early botanical explorations of these islands was first described by Parkinson (1923), a classic which is now outdated. Floristically, the ANI show elements from the Indo-Chinese and Indo-Malayan and 3552 plants species have been so far reported (Hajra et al., 1999; Sreekumar, 2002; Padalia et al., 2004). Dipterocraps are represented in the Andamans group and are absent in the Nicobars (Chaudhuri, 1992). On the other hand, the Nicobars have tree ferns and other groups of plants that are of Indo-Malayan and Indonesian affinities (Lakshmi-narasimhan & Sreekumar, 1995).

Grant (1895) included some orchid species from the Andamans in his report on the orchids of Myanmar. 110 wild orchids are reported from these islands of which 19 genera with 25 species are endemic. Currently 40 plants species are extremely localized and not known from more than one locality. 85 species are recorded as rare, endangered and threatened, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) has classified 365 as threatened (WCMC, 1994; Sreekumar, 2002; Andrews & Sankaran, 2002; Jayaran & Andrews, 2005). The IUCN Red List of ‘Threatened Species’ lists 397 animals and plant species for the Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago.

Of the 630 species of higher plants in the Red Data Book, 46 species occur in the ANI (Sinha, 1999). Aroids, ferns, mosses and climbers are mostly conspicuous in the semi evergreen and deciduous forests, besides six species of bamboo and 19 species of cane found in the islands. A recent survey has identified and recorded 406 medicinal plant species including introduced ones, many of which are used by the indigenous tribes (NBRI, 2003).

Ellis (1986) has reported the vegetation for several areas and islands in the Andaman group. Gopal (1990) reported 107 epiphyte species for two localities in South Andaman. Padalia et al., (2004) have discussed in detail the tree species diversity, density and distribution in the Andaman Islands. Srivatsava & Sinha (1995) have discussed 26 poisonous plants from the Andaman Islands. Ellis (1987c) reported 120 species of pteridophytic flora from 36 families for both island groups. Awasthi & John (1987) recorded 51 resource potential species from Great Nicobar Island as having 21 uses and Ellis (1988) and Ellis & Vishnoi (1989) reported some more exploitable plant species. Dixit & Sinha (2001) have reported 37 families representing the fern flora and divided them into three ecological groups; of which 58 are terrestrial species, 31are lithophytes and 37 are epiphytes.

Dagar and Sharma (1989) have classified the mangrove types into 19 communities and associations on the basis of structure and species composition. Earlier a total of 34 exclusive mangrove species among 17 genera and 13 families was recorded for the ANI (Dagar et al., 1991). More recently Debnath (2004) reported 59 species from both island groups. Dagar et al., (1991) have previously reported the distribution pattern in the Andamans and the Nicobar group of islands. Singh & Garge (1993) and Dam Roy (1995) have discussed the mangrove ecology and distribution pattern for the South Andaman Island.

Dagar & Dagar (1986) and Dagar (1989a; 1989b) have discussed several mangrove and coastal plant and tree species, including seeds and fruits used by the tribal people. Awasthi (1987; 1988) reported over 86 species used by the various aboriginal inhabitants. Tigga & Sreekumar (1996) reported 76 species of wild edible fruits for the ANI and of these, 45 are known to be utilized by the indigenous people of both the island groups.

There are also several introduced species, besides agricultural crops and fruit trees, including Australian trees such as Acacia auriculiformis and Eucalyptus. Others include large palms, bamboos, fence plants, and ornamental garden plants. Dagar et al., (1989) identified 250 species and Dagar & Gangwar (1989) have reported about Mikania cordata, one of the world’s worst weed that has spread in agricultural lands and in forest areas. The same authors have reported 24 other deadly weeds introduced into the islands and their related problems. Balachandran (1998) during a floristic survey of the Mount Harriet NP reported 51 introduced species and more recently Karthikeyan et al., (2004) have discussed the extensive problems of Limnocharis flava, a South American species, which is now widespread in the Andaman Islands. The Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) has recorded over 600 introduced plant and tree species (Mohanraj et al., 1999).

Gopal (1990) reported 79 epiphyte species on 72 host tree on Mount Harriet; this is in comparison to two other sites sampled where the author found only 29 and 33 species. The same author also reported the maximum epiphyte species found on one host tree from Mount Harriet, of the 107 species recorded for South Andamans 79 were from Mount Harriet National Park.

Sinha (1999) has reported 422 floral genera for the Great Nicobar Island, belonging to 142 families of which 14 % is endemic. Ellis in 1987 reported 120 pteridophytes species for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 50% of which is from Great Nicobar Island alone. Of the reported 24 species of rare and six common orchids, eight are found only on Great Nicobar Island (Ellis, 1987) and Sinha et al. (1999) in their study of the great Nicobar Island recorded two more endemic and two genera and four species as new records for India. Currently Gupta et al., (2004) have reported four new records from Great Nicobar Island.


The complex geological history of these islands and the submergence of land bridges leading to isolation have left the islands with high levels of endemism. The widespread distribution of certain species indicates that there was an early evolution and dispersal throughout the archipelago (Das, 1999). Endemism in reptiles and amphibians appears relative to species richness, islands with larger diversity have greater number of endemics (Das, 1999). This is also evident from recent herpetofauna studies conducted in the Nicobar group of islands (Vijayakumar, 2003).

Among the avifauna, 40% of the 244 species and subspecies of birds are endemic (Sankaran, 1996). In mammals, 60% of the 58 species are endemic; these include bats, shrews and rats. Seven amphibians and 16 reptile species are endemic to the Andamans and two amphibians and 15 reptiles are endemic to the Nicobars (Das, 1994, Andrews and Whitaker, 1998; Das, 1999; Andrews & Sankaran, 2002). The endemic Andaman cobra was only redescribed as a separate species in the 1990s (Wüster, 1996; 1998). More recently, Vijayakumar (2003) has reported three Ranidae as new to science from the Nicobar Islands. The two water monitor lizards found in the Andamans and the other in the Nicobars are being reported as two different species and these could be endemics (Das, per. com.). Several species of pit vipers found in the central Nicobar group are not found in the northern and southern groups and several of these could be endemic and are locality specific (Das, 1999; Vijayakumar, 2003).

Representing 700 genera and belonging to 140 families, 14% of the angiosperm species are endemic. The only vanilla, Vanilla andamanica, a climbing orchid found in the Andaman Islands is an endemic (Sreekumar, 2002). Of the 648 flora species on Great Nicobar Island, 13.11% are endemic (Sinha, 1999). In butterflies endemism is highly impressive, over 50% (Khatri, 1993). The Andamans have several species of freshwater fishes that are endemic and new to science and, are being reported from specific localities within the Andamans (Lim & Das, in prep; Ali, et al., 2003). Thus, considering the size and area of the islands, loss of habitat leading to extinctions will have far greater consequences in terms of the loss of genetic diversity (Andrews & Sankaran, 2002; ANET, 2003).

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