Bhitarkanika national park authorities
have reclaimed nearly 15 acres of encroached government land lying on the
fringe of swampy mangrove forest from unauthorized occupation of prawn farmers.
The encroached patches were made
encroachment free and 15 illegal prawn gheries each measuring an acre of land
was demolished. The state forest department has registered case against the
land grabbers under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Act.
“The reclaimed patches are being
taken up for mangrove regeneration programme so that prawn farmers would not
reoccupy the encroachment-free areas. The mangrove plantation work would begin
within a week”, said Assistant Conservator of Forest, Pradosh Patnaik.
The department has undertaken a drive to
demolish the prawn dykes that have unlawfully sprouted up either in forest
areas or in CRZ patches. After the areas are cleared, mangroves are going to be
regenerated on a war footing on those denuded patches, he added.
The reclaimed areas are conducive for
mangrove regeneration as there is regular inflow of tidal waters.
Since past two years, the department has
succeeded in regenerating mangrove species in about 300 hectares of denuded
area. These areas, once ravaged by prawn farming, are now having luxuriant look
of lush-green mangrove species.
The state forest department is ready with
funds sanctioned under Management Action Plan for Mangroves and Integrated
Coast Zone Management Plan for mangrove regeneration, said forest officials.
The scheme would be extended to other
deforested areas in phased manner and this would go a long way in arresting the
encroached mangrove cover in Mahanadi deltaic region of the Bhitarkanika
national park, he remarked.
Conceding the fact that
similar exercise undertaken in past has not been entirely successful in checking
the mangrove degradation, he said the eviction drive is being launched in a
well-oiled manner this time. A task force comprising senior and experienced
forest protection officials has been constituted. Besides public awareness is
being generated on the mangrove protection and residents of nearby villagers
are beginning to realize that mangrove is a time-tested natural barrier against
tidal surge and cyclones.