KENDRAPARA: With the kharif season coinciding with the nesting period of crocodiles, farmers of riverside villages around Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara are faced with the threat of the reptiles’ presence in their agriculture land.
Recent sightings of crocodiles in paddy fields have only added to the panic. As the nesting season of the reptiles spans from May first week till July end, many female crocodiles are laying and guarding their eggs near agricultural lands and bushes in riverside villages.
The phase coincides with kharif work making it unsafe for farmers to carry on with their field work. Those who have agricultural land on fringes of the mangrove forests often suffer losses as they are not able to cultivate properly amid fear of crocodile attacks as the reptile movement is active in the area.
Frequent movement of salt-water crocodiles in riverside paddy fields and marshy land within and even outside the park has always been nightmare for people in the area.
The situation gets worse during rainy season when the reptiles move into creeks and side streams beyond the park limits to lay eggs on land. This doubles the risk for farmers.
Sarat Pradhan, a villager of Baradia under Rajkanika block, recalls sighting two big crocodiles in his paddy field.
“We are not daring to venture into our agricultural lands,” said Rajendra Rout, a resident of Barunadia village.
Crocodile menace haunts them in all the stages of farming work like sowing of paddy seeds, watering saplings, applying fertilizers and harvesting. To save themselves, farmers are moving in groups armed with bamboos, sharp weapons, axes etc. while venturing into the fields.
Last year, crocodiles killed four villagers and around 10 cows while many others have been maimed. To prevent the crocodile attacks, Forest officials have erected barricades in about 30 ponds and river ghats in the park and nearby areas.
Bhitarkanika National Park DFO, JD Pati said, “We ban the entry of people into the forest from May 1 to July 31 during the mating and breeding of crocodiles as females turn more violent during this period. We advise farmers to work cautiously as crocodiles often enter the riverside land for basking and laying eggs.”