Despite Orissa High Court’s stringent direction to free the internationally acclaimed Bhitarkanika and Chilika wetland sites of prawn dykes, the illegal geries continue to sprout up in the areas earlier taken up for demolition.
Sukant Dalai, the lawyer representing the All-Odisha Fishermen’s Federation and Amicus Curiae Mohit Agarwal had earlier drawn the attention of the Orissa High Court stating that “despite the action taken pursuant to the orders of the court, there is constant re-emergence of illegal prawn gheris, particularly in Chilika”.
On Orissa High Court’s directions, the revenue, forest and police department in Puri, Ganjam, Kendrapara and Khurda districts in a joint operation had claimed to have demolished the earthen prawn dykes that had unlawfully sprouted up along the wetland areas. However the wetland sites are yet to be entirely cleared off the encroachments.
The Court had earlier issued directions for demolition of prawn gheris covering an area of 1,2356.78 hectare in the four districts.
The HC had also directed the Director General of Police to provide armed police cover to the demolition squads and ordered the video-graphing and satellite proofing of the evicted areas.
The High Court which heard the petition on environmental and ecological restoration of the wetland sites from the environmentally-damaging prawn cultivation was informed on 22 December by Puri district police that the area of re-emergence of the prawn gheries is large and required the deployment of additional forces. He stated that he will request the DGP for the deployment of additional forces.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice AK Mohapatra later asked the State’s DGP to examine the request on urgent basis and deploy additional forces as required to stop the re-emergence of prawn gheries.
The HC posted the matter for further hearing on 18 January, 2022 and directed the Collectors and Superintendents of police to furnish the action taken report on or before the next date of hearing.
The High Court’s directions had come in the wake of the apex court ruling in 2017 asking Odisha among other States to initiate steps for protection and conservation of wetland sites.
It is pertinent to note here that the HC had earlier taken suo motu cognizance for restoration of fragile ecosystems of the wetland sites in Chilika and Bhitarkanika, bearing the brunt of environmentally-damaging illegal prawn farming. While the Chilika wetland site comes under the administrative jurisdiction of Puri, Khordha and Ganjam district, Bhitarkanika falls under the revenue and forest administration of Kendrapara district