KENDRAPARA: In a bid to protect mangrove forests in Bhitarkanika National Park, Forest department here has launched a campaign against construction of prawn farms in the protected area.“We have begun a campaign where our staff use public address system and distribute leaflets asking people not to convert forest, revenue and agricultural land inside Bhitarkanika into prawn farms,” said range officer Manas Das.
Acting on the 2017 High court order, illegal prawn farms are being demolished. This illegal practice occurs mostly during summer which is why the campaign has been launched to keep the prawn mafia at bay. Prawn culture in the national park violates the Coastal Regulation Zone and rulings of the Supreme Court and High Court, Das added.
The department has also been planting mangrove saplings over the dismantled prawn farms to convert them into forests. Prawn farm owners often dump effluent into nearby rivers and ponds which ultimately pollute the water bodies. These illegal prawn farms pose a direct threat on the mangrove forests,” the officer informed.
Locals allege there are instances of mangrove saplings being planted on pen and paper. An NGO had in 2015 received Rs 10.72 lakh from Forest department to raise over 1.05 lakh mangrove saplings but large scale corruption surfaced during an evaluation. Forest officials are in a clear nexus in such activities, they said.
Secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtle and Mangrove Society Hemant Rout said two years back, the Orissa High Court had directed Kendrapara collector to carry out satellite verification of the entire area to detect and control proliferation of the illegal prawn gheries.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had in 2015 declared 192 villages around Bhitarkanika National Park as eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) to prevent ecological damage caused due to developmental activities. “ESZs prohibit any shrimp farming within two kilometres of the park. So authorities should demolish all the illegal prawn farms coming in that zone,” he added.