Sir Creek and nearby areas close to the sensitive international border along Pakistan are set to undergo a sea change, thanks to government plans of extensive seaweed farming in the region after trials were successful.
Despite geographical and marine challenges, this has been accorded the status of ‘highest priority national strategic project along India Pak waters’.
It must be remembered that the 96-km tidal estuary is infamous for repeated Pakistan boat incursions in Kutch.
The project is aimed at uplifting lives of fishermen living in villages near the creek by supplementing their income and making this sensitive border area more secure.
The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Veraval, the nodal agency implementing this project along with the Border Security Force (BSF), has adopted advanced mariculture technology to make the farming successful even in extremely challenging tidal conditions near Padala and Kori creeks.
This area has India’s highest tidal amplitude. Keeping the same in view, CMFRI has developed advanced HDPE raft-based seaweed farming technology for this region and successfully experimented it. The specialty of this raft is its ability to brave the extreme ocean weather changes.
CMFRI is planning to install 240 such specialised rafts at the strategic locations including Kori and Padala marine waters and 24 other villages of three talukas in Kutch. The installations will be extended to other selected locations at Juna Bundar, Luni, Nana Layja, and Zarpara.
“One raft costs Rs 16,000 with a lifespan of 20 years. Fishermen can take eight harvests (one harvest is 400kg ) a year per raft. This means that they can extract 3,200 kg of seaweed per year. Seaweed sells for around Rs 15 to Rs 18 in the market,” a scientist said explaining the commercial importance of this project.
Seaweed has a slew of applications in cosmetics, animal food, human food, fertilizer, industrial gums, chemicals, etc.
CMFRI will also train community members in seaweed farming techniques. A strategy for commercial production and making the project economically viable for the coastal community was drafted and presented to the PMO.
Also, the project is in line with the Seaweed Mission launched in 2021. According to the government estimates, if seaweed cultivation is done in 10 million hectares or 5% of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) area of India, it can generate employment for nearly 50 million people by increasing the production from 30,000 tonnes per annum to 11 MT by 2025.
Divu D, senior scientist and principal investigator of the project said, “This project is of India’s highest priority strategically. The project aims to harness the vast potential of seaweed farming in these strategic and unexplored locations.”