Kendrapara: Even as illegal prawn gherries are mushrooming in various parts of the coastal pockets in Kendrapara, the High Court has suo motu taken a strong stance on such illegal activities.
Large tracts of wetlands in the district have been gobbled up by thousands of prawn gherries in this coastal district. Demolition drives against such illegal prawn gherries have been unsuccessful thus far, a report said.
Meanwhile, the HC has directed both the state government and the district administration to pull down all unauthorised gherries by the end of May. This time, the HC has directed the state government to toughen the stand against the illegal prawn enclosures.
The government has also been directed to initiate criminal cases against some owners of prawn gherries in connection with cases lodged against them earlier.
A platoon of special police force will be pressed into service during the demolition of the illegal gherries, while funds have been allocated for the purpose from the Revenue and Disaster Management department.
The Chief Secretary and the officials of the district administration will hold review meetings on demolition drive every Friday. However, some local environmentalists were skeptical of the success of the gherry demolition drive in the district.
They pointed out that the administration had pulled down gherries in the past, but their owners restored the gherries overnight. They observed that the administration should toughen its stand in this regard by taking stern action against the prawn gherry owners.
Environmentalists such as Hemant Kumar Rout, Ashok Kumar Swain, Laxmikant Swain, Bibhuprasad Mohapatra and Harekrushna Patra said that wetlands need to be protected for a healthy biodiversity, but the mushrooming of prawn gherries has been taking a heavy toll on the biodiversity in the region.
Prawn gherries have illegally come up in over 15,000 hectares of wetlands in Mahakalpara, Rajnagar and Rajkanika blocks. All such illegal activities are prohibited in Bhitarkanika national park area, but illegal prawn farmers continue to carry on their activities inside it, they alleged.
The chemical-laced water released from prawn gherries is damaging the mangroves. Toxic water from these prawn gherries also blends with the sea water, thus taking a toll on the marine and aquatic lives, they lamented.
Following a Supreme Court order on the protection of wetlands, the High Court has suo motu admitted the case and appointed an amicus curiae to look after the issue, it was learnt.
This directive has come in the backdrop of the administration’s unsuccessful bid to wipe out the prawn gherries in the district.
For the last four years, the administration has been carrying out demolition drives against the prawn gherries, but again the prawn farmers restore the broken gherries overnight or in few days.
Despite the HC order, the administration is not initiating criminal proceedings against such errant prawn farmers.
When contacted, Sub-Collector Niranjan Behera said, “Demolition of prawn gherries is being carried out. Till date, the district administration has removed gherries in 3,008 acres.”
Police have been asked to register cases against the errant prawn farmers, he added.