Coringa vying for UNESCO Heritage site tag

The Godavari, which is the second largest river in India and forms a mighty basin, supports unique landscapes and biodiversity in both, the Western and Eastern Ghats. From its origin to its confluence at the Bay of Bengal, the river traverses a distance of 1,465 km. It ultimately empties into the sea in the form of two major distributaries, the Vasista-Godavari and Gowthami-Godavari. It is the confluence of the Gowthami-Godavari river with the Bay of Bengal that gives rise to an extensive river estuarine ecosystem known as the Godavari mangroves.
The total extent of these mangroves, according to a study published by M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in March 2004, is 316, of which 235.7 sq. km. is under the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. Because sea and freshwater meet and because periodic tides bring in rich nutrients, the sanctuary supports an impressive diversity of marine and avian fauna. The Wildlife Sanctuary is home to almost 35 species of mangroves, 14 species of mammals, 188 species of avian fauna, more than 80 species of mangrove dependent fishes, 25 species of crabs and 14 species of mangrove associated molluscans.
As part of efforts to get the UNESCO world heritage site tag for the Coringa mangroves in East Godavari district, the State government has constituted a committee to study the conditions needed to be fulfilled to achieve the coveted status. With such beauty around this region, the Government of Andhra Pradesh is now eyeing the heritage site status as it would help get UNESCO funding to protect and preserve the wildlife sanctuary and attract international tourists. 
The government has also sent a proposal to the Centre for identifying the mangroves as a Ramsar Site, a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The proposal for getting the Ramsar site was sent to the Union Ministry of Environment well before the elections.
The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO. The Convention provides national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands and sustainable use of their resources. 
Ramsar identifies wetlands of international importance, especially those providing waterfowl habitat. Now, the environment, forests, science and technology department has constituted a panel to study the “fulfilment of principles and prerequisites required for proposing the mangroves and preparing the application in full shape with all details for declaration (of the mangroves) as World Heritage site.”
The mangroves of Coringa are also home to another fish-dependent mammal – the smooth-coated otter, which, like the fishing cat, faces a bleak future because of the proliferation of commercial aquaculture ponds bordering the sanctuary. However, the ecosystem around the region is under threat due to the Polavaram Dam and the illegal mining in Eastern Ghats. Let us hope that UNESCO tag will preserve and save this naturally beautiful habitat. 

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