The Hindu , 04 April 2006

Demand to protect Olive Ridleys

BHUBANESWAR: International voluntary organisation Greenpeace on Monday organised a demonstration outside the office of the Chief Wildlife Warden demanding measures for conservation of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

Holding banners, posters and crosses symbolic of the killing of large numbers of turtles at the three nesting beaches in Orissa, the Greenpeace volunteers urged the State Government to explain the initiatives it had taken to prevent the ongoing tragedy.

The activists met Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Kumar Mohanty. Although Mr. Mohanty said the State Forest Department was taking all possible measures to bring down the casualties, Greenpeace gave him a report that contained details of the turtle deaths due to uncontrolled mechanised fishing along the Orissa coast.

Lack of action

Addressing presspersons earlier in the day, Ocean Campaigner of Greenpeace Ashish Fernandes said the turtles were getting killed in large numbers due to lack of government action.

A total of 2,127 Olive Ridleys had been counted dead this year on the beaches near the Devi River mouth, one of the three major mass nesting sites in the State, he said.

"This will be just a fraction of the population killed every year out at sea as many carcasses are never washed ashore."

Mr. Fernandes said though the turtles congregated in the sea along the Devi River mouth, no mass nesting had taken place there for seven years due to large scale fishing activity in the area.

He blamed the Forest Department for not implementing the existing rules and the directives of the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court to prevent turtle deaths.

Expressing concern over the uncertainty facing the Olive Ridley population,

Mr. Fernandes demanded independent studies to be conducted to assess the impact of the new industrial projects coming up along the Orissa coast on the lakhs of turtles that visit the coast for nesting every year.

The projects include a proposed port by Korean steel major POSCO near Paradip, exploratory oil drilling by a Reliance Group company, and a proposed port by the Tatas at Dhamra.