KENDRAPARA: Seaside villagers of Kendrapara on Thursday mourned the death of renowned agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan who had played a major role in saving the coastal pockets of the district during the Super Cyclone in 1999.
Many villages were saved during the cyclone due to the efforts of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in regenerating mangrove forests near the coastline. In 1994, MSSRF launched a mangrove regeneration programme in 25 seaside villages under the Mahakalapada block of the district. During the 12-year-long work from 1994 to 2006, the organisation converted vast tracts of coastal areas into mangrove forests.
Director in-charge of MSSRF in Odisha Prasant Parida said the organisation also provided livelihoods to hundreds of locals by converting at least 20 villages into bio-villages through integrated farming systems. MSSRF helped the locals by training them in ecosystem-based sustainable livelihoods such as mangrove restoration, sustainable fisheries, handicraft-based activities and science-led horticulture, apiculture and mushroom.
The villages where the regeneration of mangrove forests took place were saved during the Super Cyclone. But other seaside villages in Erasama block of nearby Jagatsinghpur district were washed away in tidal waves, said vice-chairman of Mahakalapada block Bijay Sukla. “Now, mangrove forests protect us from cyclones due to the efforts of MS Swaminathan. His death is a great loss to us,” he said.
Swaminathan had visited the seaside villages of the district many times during the mangrove regeneration work. “We interacted with him at Rajagada where he inaugurated a cyclone shelter in 2002,” recalled Binayak Swain of Rajagada village.
Mangroves provide a formidable natural barrier against cyclones and storm surges and play an important part in stabilising the shoreline. MSSRF also published a mangrove atlas for Odisha in 2007, said R Jeeva, a scientist of MSSRF who worked in Kendrapara district in the 1990s. Father of India’s ‘Green revolution’, Swaminathan passed away at the age of 98 in Chennai on Thursday.