Chilika fishermen up in arms over ‘illegal’ prawn gheries

Puri: More than 200 fishermen barged into the prohibited Nalabana bird sanctuary area in Chilika Lake protesting ‘illegal’ prawn gheries and nets. The fishermen reportedly tried to take control of the prohibited area in the lake for a brief period and moved out when they were assured of action by the Wildlife Division officials.

According to sources, the fishermen have been demanding action from administration on several demands which include complete eviction of illegal prawn gheries from the lake, ban on the use of thin nets for fishing, passing of Chilika Bill in the State Assembly and removal of blockade from Chilika Lake mouth.

The fishermen alleged that despite complaints against these gheries, the administration has taken no action. This is ultimately affecting their livelihood, the protestors claimed.

Paresh Kumar Jali, spokesperson of Chilika Matsyajibee Sangh said “The administration has not been paying attention to our demands for years now. Today, we have taken a resolve to protest and entered the prohibited Nalabana sanctuary area. If still no action is taken by the administration, we will intensify our agitation.”

President of Chilika Matsyajibee Sangha, Rabindra Kumar Behera said “As we have been left helpless by the administration, we decided to enter the prohibited Nalabana area to protect our livelihood and families.”
“If prawns are stopped from coming into Chilika from the sea, we will not allow the birds into the sanctuary too”, threatened Behera.

Receiving information about the entry of fishermen in the prohibited sanctuary area, officials of Chilika Wildlife Division, Balugaon and Police reached Krushna Prasad and Banapur Palli.

The officials of the Wildlife Division said that action would be taken against the fishermen who entered the prohibited area.

Maheswar Patnaik, ACF, Chilika Wildlife Division said “Whatever the reason may be, the fishermen have entered the prohibited area illegally, so we will take action against them. We will consider action after reviewing the situation in consultation with higher officials.”

“We have come here to maintain law and order. They were fishing illegally in the prohibited area, so action will be taken against them as per law,” Dillip Kumar Swain, IIC of Krushna Prasad Police Station said.