The sight of large numbers of dead Olive Ridley sea turtles along the Odisha coast has once again shocked environmentalists and turtle lovers. While the authorities appear unconcerned about such gory scenes, a petitioner, who had approached the Odisha HC 10 years ago, has once again filed an affidavit seeking a permanent solution to check the mass casualties of these rare species.
Rajib Dasgupta, a Cuttack-based nature lover, on Thursday filed the affidavit in the high court seeking, among other things, declaration of the Rushikulya and Devi river mouths as sanctuaries like Gahirmatha. He has also suggested ban on fishing within a 20-km radius of the sea in these areas and restriction of trawlers from entering into the sea for fishing without the Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs).
Filing the affidavit on behalf of the petitioner, advocate Pravat Ranjan Dash said the HC has been approached to direct the State Government to create forests along the seacoast and evacuate the refugees who have encroached upon these areas for illegal fishing activities. The affidavit has also suggested criminal prosecution of the violators of the High Court order.
It may be mentioned that following a report submitted by noted environmentalist Chandra Sekhar Kar with regard to the necessity of protecting Olive Ridley turtles, the high court in 2008 had ordered the State and Central Governments to take several measures for protection and check high causalities of the turtles.
The turtles never miss their dates of annual sojourn on the Odisha coast. Come October, they return to the coastal waters for mating and breeding in numbers without fail. In February or March, depending on the weather and beach conditions, they come ashore for mass nesting.
There are three famous mass nesting grounds in the State — Gahirmatha and Devi and Rushikulya river mouths. The Nasi Islands at Gahirmatha are the world’s largest nesting ground for these turtles. Besides the Odisha coast, which provides nesting grounds for more than half of their world population, the turtles also gather at the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica for the purpose.
Turtle lovers have all along expressed concern over the heavy casualties of these creatures during their breeding and nesting season in the Odisha coast. Despite several directions to the State and Central Governments over the protection of the endangered species, this year thousands of them are seen dead due to illegal fishing by mechanised boats. Coastal industrial activities, offshore drilling, release of polluting effluents and a host of other problems confront the unique creatures during their seven-to-eight months of stay in the coastal areas, the has petitioner alleged.