River diversion, soil erosion threat turtle nesting

Berhampur: Erosion and diversion of Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district seems to be posing a serious threat to the annual mass nesting of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.

The marine species started sporadic nesting in the area this season along the four-km-long stretch from Purunabandh to Gokharakuda near the Rushikulya river mouth.

"The entire site is now submerged due to shifting of the river mouth which is likely to cause problem for the Olive Ridley turtles to lay eggs in mass," said divisional forest officer, Berhampur, A K Jena. They are likely to choose some other site for their annual nesting off Ganjam coast, he added.

Some experts, however, raised doubts over continuity of the mass nesting near the coast, when their traditional nesting site was wiped out. "If they don`t feel comfort, they may shift to other places," said a turtle expert.

He said rapid erosion and shifting of the river mouth was due to the climate change and a natural phenomenon. Lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles, however, are seen swimming near the coastal area in Ganjam for nesting, wildlife officials said.

The DFO said forest officials have kept ready other probable sites near the traditional mass-nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles. "We have surveyed some of the probable sites off the Ganjam coast, where the turtles are likely to lay the eggs in mass on Saturday. We have asked the field staffs to keep a close watch on these probable sites," Jena said.

Meanwhile, about 100 children, mostly members of eco-clubs of five nearby high schools, took part in a cleaning drive on the coast to facilitate nesting of turtles.