Bhubaneswar: The state government urged the DRDO to restrict missile testing off the Odisha coast in February and March — the mass nesting season of the endangered olive ridley sea turtles, an official said Saturday.
The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has two major missile testing ranges in the state — Chandipur in Balasore district and the APJ Abdul Kalam Island, formerly Wheeler Island, in Bhadrak district, he said.
“It is an annual practice to request the DRDO to restrict testings during this time as these locations are close to the famed Gahirmath sanctuary, which is considered the cradle of olive ridley turtles,” the senior official of the state Forest Department said.
The DRDO adheres to the state’s request every year, he said.
At a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary PK Jena Dember 7, it was also decided to request the DRDO to appoint a nodal officer who will coordinate with the Fisheries Department for protecting the turtles.
Lakhs of olive ridley turtles visit the state’s coast every year for mating and laying eggs. While mating starts in January, the mass nesting begins in February at Gahirmath beach in Kendrapara district, Rushikulya beach in Ganjam and the confluence of the Devi river and Bay of Bengal in Puri district.
These turtles are sensitive and it is feared that missile testings might have an adverse impact on their mating and mass nesting, the official said.
During the last season, a record 6.56 lakh turtles had laid eggs at the Rushikulya rookery and 5.12 lakh turtles turned up for mass nesting at the Gahirmatha beach, he said.
The state Home Department will deploy armed police for sea patrolling during the nesting season. Besides, personnel of the Fisheries Department along with the Indian Coast Guard and the Forest Department will also be deployed for patrolling.
The state government banned fishing in these areas November 1, and it will continue till May 31.