Sharmili Mallick

The Kendrapara district, crisscrossed by rivers, creeks and water inlets, is considered the only district in India where three species of crocodiles-- salt-water, gharial and mugger-- are found inhabiting in its river systems.

The State government had launched a conservation programme of these crocodile species in 1975 and the district rose to fame for the successful conservation programme of salt-water or estuarine crocodiles at Bhitarkanika National Park.

With the increase in the population of the large semi-aquatic reptiles, instances of conflict between crocodiles and human beings residing in the riverside areas have become a common feature of this coastal region.

As per official data, a total of 26 people have lost their lives in the human-crocodile interaction over the past 12 years while three lost their lives in the attack in the last three months only.

A man died after being attacked by a crocodile while he had gone for fishing to Bhitarkanika area on June 12. Another person belonging to Jagannathpur village under Pattamundai block died in crocodile attack while he was bathing in Brahmani River on June 14, while another man, a resident of Srirampur village under Aul block, lost his life in the attack on August 6.

“It’s been three months since my husband died in the crocodile attack. I have submitted all the documents but we are yet to get the compensation amount. The local administration should create barricaded enclosures in rivers to ensure safe bathing for the people,” Priyatama Parida, wife of a crocodile attack victim.

Amar Parida, a local resident said, “We have seen three to four crocodiles floating in the river in the last three days. The reptile has killed three to four people in the village in the last three years. Villagers are afraid to go to the river for bathing.”

Though the State Government offers compensation of Rs 4 lakh for death in crocodile attack while Rs 1 lakh for people who sustained grievous injuries in the attack, locals have however alleged that the forest department is not giving any compensation if the attack happens inside the territories of the Bhitarkanika National Park.

Dr Jangyadatta Pati, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (forest) Division said, “Most of the conflict is reported in the monsoon season due to the upward movement of the crocodiles in the river. Besides, the crocodiles also come up from the river due to floods and tidal surges. We have sensitized the People about the presence of crocodiles in several ponds, rivers and water bodies in the area. We have also decided to build bathing ghats with enclosures and fencing if we receive any such demands.”