Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 12 attols, 3 reefs and 6 newly formed/ submerged sand banks. It is comprised of – 11 inhabited islands, 16 uninhabited islands; six newly formed/ submerged sand banks and 3 reefs. The Inhabited islands are Kavaratti, Agatti, Bangaram, Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat, Bitra, Andrott, Kalpeni and Minicoy.
- Bitra is the smallest of all having only a population of 267 (Census 2001).
- Though, the land area of this Coral paradise is only 32 Sq.kms. the inclusion of about 4200 Sq.Kms. of its lagoon area, 20,000 Sq.km. of its territorial waters and almost 4, 00,000 Sq.kms of Exclusive Economic Zone makes it one of the largest territories of the country. Kavaratti is its capital (Headquarters). The total population of these islands is 60650 (as per 2001 census). Malayalam is traditional vernacular spoken in all the islands, except Minicoy; where people speak Mahl, which is written in Divehi script and is the language of Maldives.
- The entire indigenous population because of their economic and social backwardness and geographical isolation is classified as Scheduled Tribes.
The tribes have, however not been named. The islanders are Muslims by religion. These islands lie about 220 to 440 kilometers away from the coastal city of Kochi in Kerala between 8o and 12° 13” North Latitude and 71° and 74° East Longitude.
Important Observations about Lakshadweep
- Each island of Lakshadweep is fringed by coral sands. A common feature of these islands is that a shallow lagoon exists invariably in their western side separating the outer reef rim from low-lying coral islands composed essentially of calcareous sand and soil.
- Elevation of the Lakshadweep islands range from 0.5-7.0m above mean sea level. This implies that the danger from storm tides is tremendous over here.
- The origin of Lakshdweep Islands is attributed to theory of Sir Charles Darwin, according to whom the origin of these Islands can be traced to gradual submergence of some of the volcanic ridge into the Indian Ocean followed by accumulation of coralline deposits on the peaks and craters of these mountains. These deposits grew into coral islands resting on submerged mountaintops over a period of time.
- The islands are mostly coralline and their alignment appears to be in continuation of the Aravalli Strike of Rajasthan.
- Lakshadweep Islands are rich in marine wealth and an abode of plethora of coastal and marine bio-diversity with pristine Coral Reef Ecosystem which support variety of ornamental and food fishes belonging to various species besides the sedentary and slow moving creature such as Sea Cucumbers, shelled animals (Molluscs) and Hermit Crabs, Lobsters and Shrimps.
- The common farm species which are tend by the people are Cows, Goats, Ducks and Hens. Cats are common, but dogs are almost wholly absent. There are no poisonous snakes on the islands, and the islands are infested with rats and mosquitoes. The rats bring about a great deal of damage to coconut trees.
- The flora of Lakshadweep mainly consists of palm trees with coconut as the only commercial crop.
- Coastal bleaching and Coral erosion is one of the serious problems being faced by the Lakshadweep group of islands. During 1998 the strongest El Nino was recorded in Lakshadweep islands leading to rise in temperature in a range of 3-5° C above normal which resulted into severe coral bleaching, with mortality rates as high as 90% in some parts of these Islands. Rising sea levels may also lead to potentially acute erosion