KENDRAPARA: Forest officials demolished illegal prawn gherries over around 100 acre of land at Rangni, Gumura, Sailendranagar and Talachua villages within Bhitarkanika National Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Bhitarkanika Bimal Prasanna Acharya said illegal shrimp farms spreading over 100 acre of forest land have been demolished in the last two days with help of police. “Security was tightened in the area for the demolition drive. We will demolish illegal farms over another 2000 acre in many villages within the park soon,” he said.
Hundreds of farmers of the seaside villages blame the mushrooming of illegal shrimp farms and its effluent for destroying their fertile agricultural lands, the DFO said.Noted environmentalist and president of Marine Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Society (MTMCS) Hemant Rout said effluent of the prawn gherries is released into the nearby rivers and ponds. The discharge also pollutes the groundwater in villages. Besides, the illegal farms also pose a direct threat to the nearby rich mangrove forests, Rout said.
Last year, the district administration and Forest department had demolished large tracts of illegal prawn farms in villages near Bhitarkanika. However, the prawn mafia repaired their gherries and were back in business within two months of the demolition drive.
Authorities should plant saplings in place of the demolished prawn farms to convert these areas into mangrove vegetation. This will prevent the prawn farm owners from reconstructing their dismantled gherries, Rout added.
Three years back, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had declared 192 villages around Bhitarkanika National Park as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs). The ESZ guideline prohibits any shrimp farming within two km radius from Bhitarkanika.
In July last year, UNESCO had rejected Bhitarkanika’s claim for inclusion in the World Heritage List in the 41st UNESCO World Heritage Committee session in Krakow of Poland citing the illegal prawn farms in the park and its nearby areas as one of the reasons.