NHRC asks union home scy to take appropriate action
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Balasore, 7 February
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Union home secretary to take appropriate action over the issue of protection of Wheeler Island on different stand points.
The apex human rights watchdog passed the direction while acting on a petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Mr Radhakanta Tripathy.
The petitioner had alleged that due to inaction of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) to control the erosion of environment, India’s lone missile test-firing range at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast has become a serious concern not only for the inhabitants of Bhadrak district where it is situated but also for the whole country.“The sand patterns around the Wheeler Island are changing. Due to erosion, some 300 metres of sand area have submerged sometimes and some sand is showing up in other part of the island. Though DRDO is very much aware of it, no sincere steps have been taken to safeguard the area,” the petition read. Since the island is close to Gahirmatha that nests Olive Ridley turtles, the Chandipur Interim Test Range (ITR) had filed an affidavit on behalf of the Defence Ministry, two days before the Agni-II missile test on 9 April 1999 saying that there were no plans to test-fire any missile during the mating and nesting period of the sea turtles.
In May 2013, increasing concern has been drawn to the change of the island’s topography, owing to sand erosion. Since the island is technically a shoal, seawater frequently causes sand-shifting.Mr Tripathy urged upon the NHRC to protect the side with the advice of NIOT to tackle the situation of erosion and environmental degradation in the area. He also sought a direction to consider, missile test firing not be carried out between November and April, which is the peak turtle nesting period at Gahirmatha and lighting arrangements on outer Wheeler Island during construction, and thereafter, were suitably altered to prevent confusing turtle hatchlings, which have been observed heading away from the sea under the influence of lights.
The petitioner also sought a direction to the DRDO will request the ICG, and possibly the Indian Navy, to assist in patrolling and anti-poaching operations during the nesting period.