Naval exercise at Netrani endangers marine life

In dire straits:  A school of fish in Netrani Coral Reef in the Arabian Sea.

The Indian Navy is once again conducting a war exercise on the Netrani Coral Reef, 11 nautical miles off the coast, endangering rare species of marine life.

The Netrani islands are being bombed as part of the naval exercise. The ministry of defence seems to have flouted the rules while granting permission for the naval exercise. 

The State government had, on June 15, 2010, declared the Netrani Coral Reef as a biodiversity heritage spot.

There are 27 species of marine life in the coral reef. It is home to joint grouper, whales, sting ray shark and other endangered species of marine life, as listed in the ‘Red Book’ of the International Union For Conservation of Nature.

Some of these species come under the purview of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

There are also rare species of marine plants in the Netrani Coral Reef. Though there is no human habitation on the Netrani Islands, 50 km off the Bhatkal coast, the naval exercise could endanger precious marine life.

After the international convention on biodiversity, the Centre had, in 2002, promulgated biodiversity rules. According to the rules, places which are home to species on the verge of extinction or species that are key to evolution can be declared biodiversity heritage spots.

The police department which acts against fishermen, if protected species of fish are netted by them, is a mute witness to the naval exercise, say the local fishermen.

The Navy has also flouted the rule that the naval exercises should not be conducted where fishermen are involved in the profession for generations.

In spite of India being a signatory to the Convention of Biodiversity, questions are being raised as to how the government permitted the Navy to conduct the exercise. As per the Coastal Regulatory Zone rules 2011, no explosions can be carried out within a radius of 12 nautical miles of the zone. The Navy has flouted this rule too as the Netrani Islands are within the prescribed radius. 

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