BHUBANESWAR: Cyclonic storm Phailin did spare the State but left the rookery of Olive Ridley turtles at Rushikulya river mouth significantly altered leading to a decline in mass nesting this year, a latest study has revealed.
The massive storm caused significant changes in the estuary which has affected the ‘arribara’, the report by scientists of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad stated.
Since the Rushikulya rookery is barely 15 km from the landfall point, the Category-5 storm triggered serious changes in its geomorphologic structure. A long sandspit, which ran parallel to the Bay of Bengal coast near the mouth of the river, was the nesting ground for the endangered sea turtles.
The study revealed that all that remains of the sandspit now - post-Phailin - is a narrow strip. Using satellite remote sensing and geographic information system, the study made a comparison between 2003 and 2014 and found massive changes.
In January 2013, nine months before the cyclone struck, length of the sandspit was measured at 4.16 km while its area was 0.56 sq km. In March 2014, six months after the storm, the study found that the sandspit’s length decreased to just 1.52 km while its area was reduced to 0.13 sq km. The total reduction in the length and area of the sandspit was 2.64 km and 0.43 sq km respectively.
The researchers studied the data from 2003 to 2014 and found “Northward increase in the length of the sandspit is commonly observed along Odisha coast which is the effect of the round-the-year longshore transport directed from north to south. The sandspit was further elongated and increased its length parallel to the coast with a narrow channel. This led to local flooding at the river mouth during monsoon,” the report stated.
In 2012, locals made some changes in its shape to stop waterlogging during floods but the cyclonic storm caused a significant drop in its length during October last year. The geographical structure of the river’s mouth was back to what it was in 2003 except some minor changes.
In 2013, around three lakh turtles had arrived for nesting. In 2014, their number fell sharply to about 86,000.
The study stated that the turtles avoided the nesting ground due to significant changes in the sandspit which was providing an additional nesting ground.