Kendrapara: Arrival of Olive Ridley turtles to Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, one of the world’s largest rookeries of endangered species, may be affected due to loss of habitat this time, said a report Tuesday.
The environment around Bhitarkanika is gradually getting degraded more due to man-made interference than natural calamities. The problems of habitat disturbance have been affecting the wildlife at the sanctuary, the report said.
The light being emitted during trial of Agni 11 missile and other missiles with nuclear warheads from the Wheeler Island, renamed as Abdul Kalam Island, is a case in this point. The Wheeler Island is close to the Gahiramatha sanctuary.
Environmentalists apprehend that the missile test-firing may affect the visit of turtles to the sanctuary which is known as their nursery. The turtles are believed to have been distracted by the light caused by Uranium burning and might have bypassed their natural habitat en masse, they said.
Green activist Biswajit Mohanty, president of Wildlife Society of Odisha, said Gahirmatha is known as a mass nesting site of the endangered sea turtles. Turtles in thousands park in the island for mating and nesting. However, the missile test launch at Wheeler Island is a great distracter for the endangered species.
Mohanty said environmentalist Banka Bihari Das had urged Dr Abdul Kalam, the then head of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1997 not to conduct missile trials during the nesting season.
He said the glare of light emitted during missile tests may misdirect the course of the turtles. A discussion ensued after which the DRDO authorities assured to take safeguard the turtles as they arrive from November 1 to May 31.
However, after the death of Kalam, missile tests continued from the island throughout the year. Environmentalist Hemant Kumar Rout of Olive Ridley Kainchha Surakshya Samiti said recurring natural calamities have seriously affected the atmosphere of Bhitarkanika sanctuary. The recent cyclonic storm Bulbul (November 9-10) eroded the shores at Nasi-2 where the turtles land. The erosion of the shore and the missile test-fire from the Wheeler Island will affect the visit by the turtles, he said.
Environmentalist Sk Chand said the mushrooming of prawn gheries destroy the environment in addition to missile tests which spell danger for the turtles. He said the Forest and DRDO authorities should discuss on the issue.
When contacted, Gahirmatha range officer Harekrushna Bhoi said letters have been sent to the DRDO authorities in this regard.