Shifting Of Rushikulya River Mouth Threatens Mass Nesting Of Olive Ridley In Odisha’s Ganjam

Berhampur: Diversion of Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district 3 km north from Purunabandha to New Podempeta is posing a serious threat to the annual mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles this season.

Rushikulya rookery is a major nesting site of these endangered marine turtles on the Indian coastline. But conservationists and Forest officials are optimistic of the mass nesting of Olive Ridleys.

“The entire 5-km nesting site from Purunabandha to Podempeta is now submerged due to the shifting of the river mouth and erosion. Still we are hopeful of the accretion due to natural processes which would create favourable beaches and be conducive for the Olive Ridley mass nesting,” said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Berhampur Amlan Nayak.

According to Rabindranath Sahu of Ruhsikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC), the erosion and deposition was a regular phenomenon in this region. But the impact of erosion is on the rise every year since 2007 and the rate of deposition by the sea has decreased compared to erosion.

“There is an urgent need for proper hydrology and geomorphologic study of the sea erosion phenomenon as it is likely to cause problems for the Olive Ridleys to lay eggs in mass. Besides the sea turtles, it would also be beneficial for the future safety of the fishermen community living on this coast including Arjyapalli, Nolianuagaon, Purunabandha, Gokharkuda, Podempetaand Kantiagada”, said Rabindranath.

Heavy rain and gushing of rain water through the Rushikulya can again shift the mouth of the river, he said. If there would be no rain, the Olive Ridley may choose the Bahuda river mouth beach 35 km south of Rushikulya rookery which is now in good condition and sporadic nesting have already been reported there during the past, he said.

As part of the conservation steps, the state government has imposed 7-month fishing ban within 20 km of Ganjam coast to protect Olive Ridleys from November 1 to May 31. Four vessels including three speed boats and trawlers are patrolling off the coast to crackdown the fishing trawlers  and mechanised boats in the no-fishing zones. Besides, Forest staff have been deployed in 11 camps.

The government has decided to disburse one-time livelihood assistance of Rs 7,500 to the affected fishermen families. As many as 3,638 families of 9 villages will benefit from the compensation package, the DFO said.

The Forest Department has also taken steps to clean the beach and construct fences in Bateswar and Siddhantanagar. “In 2020-21, there was sporadic nesting. But we are taking every step for mass nesting,” the DFO said.

The mating season of Olive Ridley is between October to January and extends up to February some times. The mass nesting usually takes place from late December to April though higher density sporadic nesting continues in May, sources said.

The 3.23 lakh nesting was recorded in 2019-20, no mass nesting in 2018-19, 4.28 lakh in 2017-18, 3.70 lakh in 2016-17, no mass nesting in 2015-16, 3.09 lakh in 2014-15, 0.59 lakh in 2013-14, 2.86 lakh in 2012-13, 1.01 lakh in 2011-12, 2.53 lakh in 2010-11, 1.56 lakh in 2009-10, 2.61 lakh in 2008-09, 1.80 lakh in 2007-08, no mass nesting during 2006-07, 1.98 lakh in 2005-06, 0.89 lakh in 2004-05, 2.01 lakh in 2003-04, according to official sources.

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