Puri/Kakatpur: In view of the crucial role the mangroves play in protecting the marine life in coastal region and the biodiversity, there is a growing clamour for regeneration of more mangroves.
Mangrove forests stabilise the coastline by reducing erosion due to high tides and currents. The intricate root system of mangroves makes the forests attractive to fish and other organisms seeking food and protection from predators.
Such ecologically significant forests are found at Sahana, Kanamana, Balabhadrapur, Nuagada, Beleswar, Keutajanga, Sundara, Daluakani, Sishua, Udayakani, Chhenu, Kalamakani and Kanarpur along Astarang coast here. Rich mangrove forests also grow near the estuaries of rivers Debi and Gangadebi.
According to Sobhakar Behera, an environmentalist, “The Super Cyclone of 1999 had devastated the Erasama coast in Jagatsinghpur district, but the mangrove forests stood firm against the tidal surge at that time. This coast would have met similar fate in the absence of mangroves.”
Concerted efforts had been made by the Forest department to create and restore mangrove forests in the region, said the department sources.
Puri Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Chittaranjan Mishra said, “Mangroves have been created in 225 hectare in Nuagada, Madhupur, Balisahi, Dudhia, Nanpur, Sahan, Natara, Belanga, Daluakani and Keutajanga since 2005. Similarly, mangroves were grown in 20 hectare of the area in Sipakuda estuary.”
“There is a plan to further create 35 hectare mangrove forests in the district – 25 ha under Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) and 10 ha with Central government’s assistance,” stated the DFO adding, mangroves are being protected with the active participation of Vana Surakhya Samitis. Mangroves provide a permanent livelihood source for fishermen as they are home to a variety of fish species and crabs, he mentioned.
The mangrove species found in Astarang region include Bani, Keruan, Guan, Pitamari, Rai, Sundari, Karanja and Harakancha, said Mishra, adding they are crucial for containing soil erosion. They also deter the sea ingress and break the speed of the wind during cyclonic storms.
The mangroves at Sahana are a major tourist attraction as thousands of visitors throng the spot in the winter when migratory birds flock there for breeding. “It creates an impression of Bhitarakanika while travelling from Sahana to Debinasi and the estuary on boats,” said Philu Behera of Sahana area.
Astarang block chairman Swadhin Kumar Nayak said, “We have sent a proposal to the state government to declare Sahana mangrove forest as an eco-tourism destination.”
The Forest department has sunk tube-wells and set up concrete benches, and created necessary infrastructure for picnickers near Gangadebi temple. This apart, some villagers have prepared boats to ferry the tourists across Luna river. Now, there is a growing demand for creation of mangroves alongside the Luna, Prachi and Kadua rivers to protect the biodiversity of the region and attract more tourists.
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