Mangrove Rehabilitation in Muthupet, Tamil Nadu

22 Sep, 2021

Green recovery as COVID response

By Avantika Bhaskar, Technical Expert, GIZ

As a response to COVID-19 and the lockdown, green recovery measures are being implemented at the Point Calimere Ramsar site in India. These measures offer employment opportunities to communities around the site in the short-term while building long-term resilience through management of healthy wetland ecosystems. The measures are focused on the implementation of livelihood-oriented training, conservation, and restoration activities. The green recovery measures are being implemented by Development of Humane Action (DHAN) Foundation in close cooperation with the state Forest Department, with the support of the IKI-BMU project on “Wetlands Management for Biodiversity and Climate Protection” implemented by GIZ.

A traditional fish trap called ‘pari’, used for fishing in the canals (Photo: GIZ)

Communities living around the Ramsar site are dependent on Muthupet mangroves for canal and lagoon fishing. In the western part of Muthupet mangroves, a traditional method of fishing locally called vaaikkal meenpidippu (canal fishing) is practiced, which integrates fishery development with mangrove regeneration. In this method, canals are constructed across the mangrove wetland in the north-south direction. These fishing canals (pari madai vaikkal) exhibit the ingenuity of the local communities based on the symbiotic relationship between mangroves and their fishing-dependent livelihood. During the high tide, particularly during the Northeast monsoon season (October - December), when freshwater inundates the entire mangrove wetlands, large quantities of fish and prawn seedlings move into these canals. After this, the mouth of the canal is closed with a locally developed fish pen called ‘saar’, which allows only water and not fish, to pass through. The trapped fish are caught in a trap called ‘pari’ and harvested periodically. This traditional method of pari-saar fishing is practiced in 128 such canals ranging from 1.0-3.5 km in length. More than 100 fishing families depend on these canals for their livelihood. Further, it has been observed that healthy mangroves are present largely in the area where canal fishing is practised. This is mainly because canal fishing prevents stagnation of tidal water in the mangroves and thereby helps in maintaining soil salinity that is suitable for mangrove regeneration and growth. The free movement of the tidal water is maintained by desilting the canals. If not done regularly, it affects the fish catch and the livelihood.

When cyclone Gaja struck in 2018, a large number of these canals got silted and were obstructed with mangrove debris, making them inaccessible. Further, it hindered their tidal flushing affecting the regeneration and growth of mangroves and favoured the proliferation of Suaeda, a salt-tolerant mangrove associate. Under the project, 35 of such canals are being restored. The canals were selected, based on the extent of siltation and the socio-economic status of the communities. The restoration work is being carried out by communities of Maravakkadu, Karisalkadu and Manganakadu villages, based on traditional knowledge. This intervention is being implemented through Eco-development and Village Forest Committees, with the support of the Forest Department. Manual restoration of these canals involves removal of Suaeda, fallen dead wood, and silt. This takes around 5-7 days depending on the extent of siltation and debris. As of now, nearly 1238-man days have been generated, benefiting 83 fishers, through this activity.

The restoration of these fishing canals would facilitate the re-establishment of the saline/freshwater interface necessary for mangrove rejuvenation. On the other hand, the restoration of mangrove forests will enhance the fishery potential of the region benefiting the fishers. In the long-term, it would enhance storm protection, reduce soil erosion, improve biodiversity and the overall resilience of the ecosystem.

Traditional silt removal process in the fishing canals (Photo: DHAN Foundation)

Fishing canal prior to restoration (Photo: DHAN Foundation)

Fishing canal prior to restoration (Photo: DHAN Foundation)

A restored fishing canal in Muthupet (Photo: GIZ)


  • Selvam, V., Gnanappazham, L., Navamuniyammal, M., Ravichandran, K. K., & Karunagaran, V. M. (2002). Atlas of mangrove wetlands of India: part 1 Tamil Nadu.
  • DHAN Foundation (2021). Green Recovery Measures in Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu. Second quarter report (May 15 – August 15, 2021).


About the project

The Wetlands Management for Biodiversity and Climate Protection project aims to strengthen the institutional framework and capacities for an ecosystem-based integrated management of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) in India. Four Ramsar sites have been selected as pilot sites under the project: Pong Dam and Renuka Lake in Himachal Pradesh, Bhitarkanika Mangroves in Odisha, and the Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. The project is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in close cooperation with the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA). This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. Read More

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