By Kshirabdhi Tanaya
Over last couple of years, a sharp shrinkage of the Gahirmatha beach, considered world's largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles, has caused concern among the wildlife lovers and environmentalists regarding safe nesting and breeding of the endangered species.
Significantly, the endangered marine species has been accorded threatened status like tiger as per schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (amended 1991). It is protected under the migratory species convention and Convention of International Trade on Wildlife Flora and Fauna (CITES).
However, the peaceful environment of the sandy beach is fast turning unsuitable as it is undergoing rapid topographical changes over the last few years. The beach has become a matter of worry for the conservationists who apprehend that the turtles may get distracted by the broken nesting sites.
Official sources said that once the 15 km stretched beach, one of the largest nesting grounds in the world on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal, has been reduced to more than half of its earlier shape following massive sea erosion.
According to Rajnagar Mangrove Forest division official sources, the rookery which is situated at the Gahirmatha beach, comprising parts of Nasi-I, Nasi-II, Ekakulanasi and Babubali isles, used to play a favourite nesting place to the marine species. However, of late, the nesting grounds mainly at Nasi-I and Nasi-II have shrunk in most parts. Nasi –I is now reduced to 2.1 km long. But the fact of worry is that it is divided into at least three short parts, over the last four years, said Kishore Swain, a local environmentalist.
Apart from the sea erosion, the violent tidal waves caused breaches, changing the geographical character of the scenic island and affecting the space of the turtle habitat. On the other hand, the Nasi–I island, which is stretched 3km, is less affected by the sea erosion, said forest official sources.