• otv

Kendrapara: Nearly 400 acres of land of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary have been encroached upon for illegal prawn farming in Odisha's Kendrapara district, an RTI query has revealed.

In response to a Right to Information application moved by green activist Biswajit Mohanty, Kendrapara district administration said 377.76 acres of government land has been taken up for illegal prawn farming in 19 human settlements within the sanctuary.

356 prawn dykes (gheries) have sprouted up in the villages coming under Rangani, Talchua, Righagarh and Gupti revenue circles of the sanctuary. Rangani village accounts for maximum encroachment with 241 gheries, officials said.

Prawn gheries have also come up in the prohibited coastal regulation zone (CRZ) territory.

Mohanty said, "Law is being repudiated while both the district administration and forest department have turned a blind eye to it."

He alleged that Provisions of CRZ, environment protection law and the Forest Conservation Act were being flouted and influential land-grabbers and prawn mafias were blatantly violating the Orissa Land Encroachment Act.

Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya claimed that Forest department wants to clear encroachment and any form of human activity within the forest area. "We have demolished gheries in the past and reclaimed the land," said.

"There will be constant watch and vigil by the department mobile squads to ensure that prawn gheries do not spurt up again," Acharya said.

Kendrapara Collector Debraj Senapati said Rajnagar tehsil officials have been directed to evict the squatters and initiate legal action against the encroachers.

The Orissa High Court had earlier ordered demolition and dismantling of all illegal prawn cultivation structures in the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.

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