KENDRAPARA: The Fisheries department has recently cancelled the lease agreement signed between the State government and a seafood export company for shrimp farming over 400 acre of land in the seaside Banapada village which is situated within the eco-sensitive zone of Bhitarkanika National Park.
The Director of Fisheries informed this before the Odisha Lokayukta at the hearing of a petition filed by RTI activist Ranjan Kumar Das. In his petition filed two years back, Das alleged that in 2016, the State government illegally leased out around 400 acre of land to a seafood export company for shrimp farming within the eco-sensitive zone of Bhitarkanika by violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and other laws.
The Fisheries Director informed the Lokayukta that the department granted lease of Banapada cluster for shrimp culture in favour of Odisha Aqua Traders and Marine Exporters Pvt Ltd in December 2016. But on August 4 this year, the Fisheries department cancelled the lease agreement after rationalisation of the boundary of Bhitarkanika on February 1, 2020 by the Forest department. In view of the order of the Director of Fisheries, the case was closed by the Lokayukta.
Meanwhile, residents of Banapada, Jagatjora and nearby seaside villages expressed happiness after the cancellation of lease for shrimp farming. They said vast tracts of fertile agriculture land in their villages have been destroyed due to the release of untreated effluent from shrimp farms. Pravat Rout of Banapada said, “The area was called the rice bowl of the region.
But now, it looks like a small island surrounded by shrimp farms. Besides, the prawn farms are also threatening the nearby rich mangrove forests.” Another villager Swadhin Parida said, “I used to cultivate paddy in my land. But it lost its fertility after shrimp farms started releasing effluent since last year. Now, the fertile land has turned barren. Villagers are happy that the government cancelled the lease agreement with the seafood export company. We hope the Forest department dismantles the shrimp farms operating in the area soon.”