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Mangroves facing extinction to be saved urgently from human rampage to protect state’s fragile coastal ecology

Unabated infiltration and unchecked land-grabbing by illegal settlers continue to invite disaster for still-intact mangroves in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary.

And to save the mangrove vegetation from being exterminated entirely from the internationally-acclaimed Ramsar wetland area, the need of the hour is to stop human interference of this nature.

It’s pertinent to note here that Bhitarkanika which was in the tentative list of Unesco world heritage site missed the World Heritage Site (WHS) tag in the natural properties category. The mangrove eco-system was found deficient in the yardstick framed by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which had assessed Bhitarkanika on ground level in May last. Bhitarkanika, it is believed, failed to meet with the natural property yardstick framed by the global body due to the rampant human interference in the form of raising of prawn gherries and cases of violation coastal regulation zone act  

 “It’s wakeup call for the forest department after Bhitarkanika missed the World heritage site tag. Mangroves are to be saved at any cost to protect state’s fragile coastal ecology. The illegal human settlements, which still poses the foremost impediment for mangrove conservation would have to be done away with”, asserted noted green activist Mr Biswajit Mohanty.

“On 2005 year, the government has swung into action to banish the illegal settlers. But that was abruptly stopped purely on political consideration. It’s now high time that deportation move it should be carried out irrespective of oppositions from various quarters. Both the government at the state and centre should work in cohesion for expeditious deportation of foreign national and plug the illegal immigration” Mr Mohanty iterated.

These illegal settlers, who are more than one lakh in number, have set up their homes in and around the Bhitarkanika national park and Mahanadi deltaic region, which was once covered with lush greenery. The squatters have damaged the mangrove vegetation in the area. Unless removed from the place, they spell doom for the mangrove cover, the unique coastal vegetation, Mr Mohanty said. 

The mangrove acts as a buffer against the tidal surge during cyclonic disaster, he said.

The studies by authorities such as satellite remote sensing centres and the Centre have pointed out that the mangrove vegetation is fast becoming extinct following unabated man-made onslaught by Bangla settlers. Unless unlawful settlers are flushed out in accordance with foreigners act legal provisions, the very survival of mangrove is at stake, he observed.

The infiltrators have not only converted the mangrove areas into paddy fields but have are also carrying out prawn cultivation in most of their villages. Places such as Jamoboo, Ramnagar, Gupti, Batighar, Kharinasi, Dangmal and Talchua are glaring instances of what human interference can do to Nature. The region in the seventies presented a scene of lush greenery but now a mere shadow of the past greets the eyes. Hardly any mangrove bush can be found in the area. Talchua, where around 30-odd Bangladeshis settled down amid thick mangrove forest, has now turned into a bustling rural township with more than 20,000 residents. In the process, the mangrove remains an elusive commodity in Talchua.

Since Bangladesh is an independent country, they can return to their homeland. If the country had been gracious enough to shelter them, they had no right to ravage its natural resources like a foreign invader, Mr Mohanty said, accusing the registered refugees for encouraging their relatives from Bangladesh to move over to the mangrove areas.


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