Lakshadweep: An Enchanting Biodiversity Paradise

About Lakshadweep

  • Meaning of “Lakshadweep”: The term “Lakshadweep” originates from Sanskrit, translating to “lakhs of islands.”
  • Establishment: In 1956, the union territory was established. It was renamed “Lakshadweep” in 1973 after being known as “Laccadives” previously.
  • Geography: Lakshadweep is a union territory of India comprised of thirty-six islands. Despite its multitude of islands, it holds the title of being the smallest union territory, covering a mere 32.69 sq. km.
  • Coordinates: The islands are situated between 8° to 12° 13’ N latitude and 71° to 74° E longitude. They are positioned at a distance of 220-490 km from the coastal city of Kochi in Kerala, situated in the Arabian Sea.
  • Population: As per the Census of 2011, Lakshadweep had a total population of 64,473. In 2024, it is estimated that the population has slightly increased to 66,000.
  • Coastal line: 132 km
  • Territorial waters: 20,000 km2
  • Lagoons: 4200 km2
  • Nearest land: Kozhikode, Kochin, Manguluru, and Tiruanantpuram.
  • Inhabited Islands: Kavaratti, Agatti, Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat, Bitra, Andrott, Kalpeni and Minicoy.
  • Smallest Island: Bitra (271 persons, according to the 2011 census).
  • Language: Malayalam, except in Minicoy where people speak Mahl (written in Divehi script).
  • Main occupation: Fishing, coconut cultivation.
Sea shore

Lakshadweep: A Biological Viewpoint

The Lakshadweep archipelago boasts a distinct and diversified ecosystem. It comprises 12 atolls (ring-shaped reefs/islands/chains of islands built of coral), 3 reefs, 5 submerged banks, and 10 inhabited and 17 deserted (or seasonally inhabited) coral islands.

The Faunal treasury of Lakshadweep

Coral Diversity: There are seventy different types of hermatypic corals in the shallow waters of Minicoy Reef and Lagoon.

Fish Species: The Lakshadweep islands are home to 603 different species of fish, belonging to 126 families. It includes antherinids, spyraenids, polynemids, balistids, blennids, globe-fishes, carangids, goat-fishes, half-beaks, gar-fishes, and globe-fishes.

Offshore Fishery: This type of fishing includes flying fish, carangids, ribbon fish, rays, skates, sailfish, sharks, tunnies, and seer fish. Anampses diadematus, Gomphousus varius, Polynemus sexfilis, Naso tuberosus, Naso unicornis, and Crenimugil crenilabis are common offshore species.

Crustaceans: There are 41 species of crabs and 2 species of lobsters found in Lakshadweep.

Mollusk Diversity: Octopus (Octopus vulgaris, O. membranaceus, and O. cyaneus) are common in the lagoon bottom, whereas giant clams (Tridacna maxima) are found on the reef flat.

In addition, the Lakshadweep archipelago has 48 species of gastropods and 12 species of bivalves reported.

Sponge Variety: There are 41 known species of sponges, all belonging to the Demospongean class.

Shark species: The milk shark (Rhizopriodon acutus) and the sponge-nose shark/yellow dog shark (Scoliodon laticaudus) are prevalent in Lakshadweep. Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) and the hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) are also common.

Marine Life Beyond Fish: Diverse types of dolphins, including the Spinner dolphin, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin, and Cape dolphin; four species of marine turtles; and twenty-four species of cetaceans (whales).

Bird Population: Lakshadweep is home to 101 different species of birds, including three kinds of terns (Noddy, Sooty, and Brown-winged terns), grey, golden, and crab plovers, as well as curlews, whipmelles, and common sandpipers.

The Floral treasury of Lakshadweep

Plant Diversity: With over 400 identified species, Lakshadweep is home to a diverse range of flora.

Seaweed Variety: There are 114 species and 62 genera of seaweeds in the archipelago.

Seagrasses: Six species of seagrass have been found in the area.

Mangrove habitats: Minicoy Island has two mangrove habitats, one in the southeast and one in the south.

Widely grown crops: Breadfruit (Chakka), banana (Vazha), colocasia (Chambu), drumstick (Moringa oleifera), and wild almond (Terminalia catappa).

Shrub Jungles: Plants such as Cheerani (Thespesia Populnea), Punna (Calophyllum inophyllum), Chavok (Casuarina equisetifolia), and Kanni (Scaevola keeningil) are found in shrub jungles and are sporadically scattered throughout the islands.

Economic Crop: The only crop of significant economic value in Lakshadweep is coconut (Thenga or Cocos nucifera).

Tourism in Lakshadweep

  • Way to reach: Ships and flights are operated from Kochi. An airstrip is located in Agatti only. From Agatti ships to Kavaratti and Kadmat are available. It takes about 1.5 hr to reach Agatti from Kochi by air and 14-18 hours by water. Seven passenger ships – MV Kavaratti, MV Arabian Sea, MV Lakshadweep Sea, MV Lagoon, MV Corals, MV Amindivi and MV Minicoy operate between Cochin and Lakshadweep islands.
  • Entry: You need an entry permit to Lakshadweep issued by the authorities of the Island administration. You can get your ePermit here.
  • Adventures: kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, sailboats, windsurfers, snorkel sets glass-bottomed boats are available for water sports. Scuba diving in Kadmat, Kavaratti and Bangaram. Dolphin Dive Centre in Kavaratti. Minicoy is an important centre for tuna fishing.
  • Culture: Kolkali and Parichakali are the two popular folk art forms. In Minicoy “Lava” is the most popular dance form.

An Important Message to the Visitors of Lakshadweep

Enter the unspoiled paradise of Lakshadweep, a place where tranquility and purity coexist. The tranquility of these pristine islands is reflected in every step you take every decision you make. Honor the beauty and preserve the innocence. Allow your travels to leave only good memories behind. As the defender of this unspoiled paradise, make sure it continues to be a spotless haven for all who come after. Respect, protect, and relish Lakshadweep’s pure charm.

References:

  • Lakshadweep | Official Website of Administration of Lakshadweep | India
  • Jones, Santhappan, and M. Kumaran. Fishes of the Laccadive archipelago. The Nature Conservation and Aquatic Sciences Service, 1980.JAMES, P.S.B.R & R.S. LAL MOHAN (1987) The Marine mammals of India. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T & E., 71: 1-13.
  • Sankarankutty, C. “On some crabs (Decapoda-Brachyura) from the Laccadive Archipelago.” Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 3.1 & 2 (1961): 120-136.
  • Tripathy, Basudev. “Marine biodiversity of Lakshadweep: An overview.” Kachappa 7 (2002): 14-19.
  • Velmurugan, A., Gafoor, V. A., Jaisankar, I., Swarnam, T. P., & Mathai, J. (2008). Biodiversity and climate change impacts on the Lakshadweep Islands. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 503–522). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-813064-3.00018-1

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