Random afforestation may cause detrimental and irreversible impact on the riparian ecology, wildlife
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Bhubaneswar: The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) held a press meet on an array of issues like Green Mahanadi Mission, bio-diversity, wildlife and livelihood at Buddha Mandir in Bhubaneswar, Thursday.
Addressing the media, WSO secretary Biswajeet Mohanty said, “The Green Mahanadi Mission needs to be implemented with much caution as it can also have detrimental and irreversible impact on the riparian ecology, wildlife and local livelihoods. It is important to bear in mind that river flood plains have existed for thousands of years and they cannot be converted into forests blindly. They comprise grasslands, shrubs and riparian forests”.
Elaborating on the issue, WSO media convenor Anil Dhir observed, “Flood plains are usually barren and consist of silt and sand. “They can also have vegetation of grass, creepers, reeds and shrubs or scattered trees in some areas. This localised habitat nurtures a wide variety of wildlife like grey partridge, curlew, lapwings, waders, snakes, monitor lizards, foxes, etc. Even Schedule I species like pythons, wolves and fishing cats are found in flood plains. Many species of terns and the extremely endangered Indian Skimmer nest on flood plains and riverine islands. The sandy banks and islands are nesting and basking area for turtles.”
It would be unwise to convert this habitat into forests. This would lead to replacement of natural vegetation as well as destroy nesting, feeding and basking areas of wildlife species, the WSO suggested, adding plantations may be done only after the high flood line if any vacant area is available within the stipulated 1 km width. Local villagers can plant fruit saplings in the backyard, but no such saplings should be planted on flood plains.
Ranjit Kumar Patnaik, field officer of Wild Life Society, stressed on the fact that the Forest Department has undertaken plantations in riverine islands as well as river beds in Mahanadi near Cuttack city and this has affected the river’s morphology and hydraulic dynamics. “The speed at which water flows is hindered by such plantations that break the fast flow of water currents. Consequently, it leads to excessive trapping of sediment load, which, in turn, leads to formation of high sand banks and leads to a gradual reclamation of the river by progressive deposition. This affects the water discharge capacity of the river and in times of excess inflow in the catchment areas it can lead to flash floods,” Patnaik observed.
Plantation has been done in 500 acres of river bed and islands in Mahanadi river near near new CDA-Nuapatna bridge in Cuttack as well as at Hadia Patha near Jobra are covered.
Generally, such fertile flood plains are used to grow a wide variety of crops including water melons, brinjal, groundnut, sesame, pulses, pumpkins, etc. Annual flooding deposits fertile silt, thereby leading to renewed soil vigour resulting in abundant harvests. Buffalos, cows and pigs use flood plains and riverine islands for grazing. Converting them into forest would immediately lead to a deprivation of pastures and lead to huge conflicts, the WSO warned.