Orissa port site not Ridley turtle habitat: company official

May 26th, 2008 - 8:06 pm ICT by admin  

Mumbai, May 26 (IANS) Orissa’s Dharma Port project will not affect the nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles on the state’s beach, claimed chief executive officer of Dhamra Port Company Ltd (DAPCL) Santosh Mohapatra here Monday. “The NEAA (National Environment Appellate Authority) after visiting the site upheld the clearance (to the project) with a clear finding that the place being muddy and silty is unsuitable for turtle nesting,” Mohapatra told reporters here.

The work on the port was stopped after objections raised by the international environmental activist group Greenpeace.

“We had stopped work for one full season because of these objections and resumed only after receiving all statutory clearances,” Mohapatra said.

“The first phase of the project, which is worth Rs.24.63 billion, will become fully operational by April 2010 and 25 percent of work is already over,” he said. DAPCL is a joint venture project between Tata Steel and Larsen and Toubro.

Thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come to beaches in Orissa for nesting every year. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the turtles as “vulnerable” to extinction.

Mohapatra said the turtles come in thousands to nest along the coast of Orissa and the studies carried out by Wildlife Institute of India reveal that these marine turtles nest along the south of river Dhamra, and never visit the northern stretch as it is muddy and silty.

“Our project and the proposed port fall in this sector, and turtles always look for sandy beaches so that they can dig holes and hide their eggs. This fact was verified by the empowered committee which gave the clearance and later confirmed by the appellate authority after visiting the site,” Mohapatra said.

Mohapatra also told mediapersons that, following severe criticism, DAPL had invited the IUCN to identify areas with potential to adversely affect the turtle habitat and precautionary measures that can be implemented to nullify the possible negative impact.

According to Mohapatra, the IUCN after carrying out studies, identified the areas and advised the port planners to change the mode of dredging methods, the luminosity at the port and also suggested carrying out of an awareness campaign amongst the local fishermen to implement turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in the fishing nets and trawlers.

“We have already brought about appropriate changes in our lighting manual and for that matter in our mode of dredging. And since the real cause of the large scale of turtle mortality along the coastal region is lack of TEDs, the IUCN is carrying out a massive educational awareness campaign, stressing on the importance of TEDs and the importance of marine turtles for the coastal ecosystem,” he said.

However, noted conservationist and editor of magazine Sanctuary Bittu Sehgal, present at the press conference, pointed out that till date neither the government nor the developers have been able to answer to the fact that the construction of the port “would disrupt the food chain cycle in the entire marine system”.

Talking to IANS, Sehgal said the damage by the port would be irreversible. “Olive Ridley turtles feed on invertebrates and play an important role in open ocean and coastal ecosystems. Moreover, it is simple logic (that) for any species’ survival a proper natural food chain is important.”

“The effect will be visible after five years but who will answer then? So far, none of the authorities has been able to come up with any coherent and effective precautionary measures. IUCN has classified Olive Ridley turtles as ‘vulnerable’ but soon this may change to ‘endangered’,” Sehgal said.

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