CUTTACK: A controversy over the extent of illegal prawn culture activity in Chilika erupted in the Orissa High Court on Monday with the State Government and the Amicus Curiae differing over the status of unauthorised prawn gheris in the lake area.
While the Advocate General, during the course of his oral submission, stated that unauthorised prawn gheris were decreasing, the Amicus Curiae Mohit Agarwal said the extent of illegal prawn cultivation had almost doubled. Agarwal pointed out that the increasing trend was evident from affidavits filed by Government authorities in the High Court and satellite imagery conducted in pursuance of the latter’s direction.
Taking note of the counter statement of the Amicus Curiae, the division bench of Chief Justice KS Jhaveri and Justice KR Mohapatra asked Advocate General Ashok Parija to ensure that the State Government files an affidavit on the present status of unauthorised prawn gheris in Chilika lake area when the case is taken up next on September 16.
Collectors of Puri, Ganjam and Khurda had submitted affidavits in the High Court between December, 2017 and March, 2018 on unauthorised prawn gheris in parts of their respective districts which came under Chilika lake area. The affidavits indicated that a total 16,000 acre of land were under illegal prawn cultivation.
The status of unauthorised prawn gheris in Chilika was stated to be 21,370 acre in the affidavit submitted by Director, Environment and Special Secretary Dr K Murugesan on February 18, 2019. The satellite imagery report on May 18, 2019 indicated that unauthorised earthen prawn gheris spread over 29,500 acre in the lake area. The report was presented at a meeting of the committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment department on June 24.
The high level committee was constituted on direction of the High Court to conserve the ecology of the two major wetlands of the State - Bhitarkanika National Park and Chilika. The court was first dealing with proliferation of illegal prawn gheris after the Amicus Curiae highlighted it as one of the six factors that need to be considered for preservation of the two wetlands.
The other factors included pollution, unregulated boat operations and oil spills, depletion of mangrove cover in Bhitarkanika, activities by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants inside Bhitarkanika and poaching.