Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

After several precious lives were lost in crocodile attacks in many rivers of Odisha, the State government seems to have wakened up from its deep slumber. 

In a bid to reduce man-reptile conflict along the water bodies, the government has prepared a blueprint. As a part of the initiative, initially, fencing nets will be put up in the ghats of rivers that are infested with crocodiles. However, experts have put a question mark over its effectiveness and execution.

“We depend upon the river for our daily household chores as we have no other alternatives. However, we are under constant threat of crocodile attack and scared for our lives. We take taking bath in the river and quickly get out fearing a crocodile attack. Many people in our area have lost their lives in the crocodile attacks,” said Antarjyami Barik, a resident of Nimpur village under Pattamundai block of Kendrapara district.

As per reports, three persons have lost their lives in the village in the last 15 days. The villagers have set up an iron wire fencing in the river ghat. They are taking bath inside the fencing area due to the threat to their lives because of crocodile attacks. 

In a bid to curb the mishaps, the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) has joined hands with the State Water Resources and Forest Departments to set up fencing nets in 100 widely used ghats in rivers that are infested with crocodiles.

“Proper arrangements will be made soon after discussions with the Water Resources Department to provide safety and security to the people from crocodile attacks and curb drowning incidents,” said Revenue and Disaster Management Minister, Pramila Mallik.

“In a joint initiative, fencing nets will be erected in 100 ghats of crocodile-infested rivers to curb the man-reptile conflict,” said Bhakta Ranjan Mohanty, Chief Engineer of the Water Resources Department.

“Safe places will be created in 100 river ghats by erecting fencing nets. Crocodiles will not be able to enter the area and people may use the river safely,” said Rajnagar DFO Sudarshan Gopinath Yadav.

However, experts have expressed apprehensions over the execution and effectiveness of the initiative.

“River ghat is a huge area and fencing the area with nets will be very difficult. It’s not the only alternative to curb the mishaps in the river. Among other alternatives, protective tubes should be kept in the ghats of the rivers and there should be chain systems in place,” said Lalit Mohan Patnaik, an expert.

As per the information provided by the State government, as many as 5,211 persons in the State have lost their lives on account of drowning in rivers, ponds, and other water bodies in the last five years. It remains to be seen how far the State government’s river fencing initiative to curb crocodile attacks and drowning will be effective.