State protests, Jairam seeks MoD intervention

Bhubaneswar: Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday sought intervention of Defence Minister A K Antony after state government registered protest against launching of missiles from Wheeler Island which poses serious threat to mass nesting and breeding of endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

State environment and forest department officials had expressed their concern to Jairam Ramesh during his two-day visit to the state. As Wheeler Island, missile launching site of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is close to Gahirmatha marine wildlife sanctuary, it imparts an adverse impact on the breeding and nesting of turtles. On April 29-30, Ramesh visited Gahirmatha marine wildlife sanctuary.

“DRDO has been requested not to test-fire missiles during turtle nesting season. We had brought this issue before the environment minister and he had assured to take up the matter with the defence minister,” state forest secretary Aurobindo Behera said.

“I request for your personal intervention to ensure that DRDO complies with the conditions stipulated when given approval for use of Wheeler Island in 1993 and for taking extra measures suggested by the state forest department in protecting and conserving the Wheeler Island ecosystem as well,” Ramesh said.

On earlier occasions also state government had protested conducting missile tests from Wheeler Island. The state government had, in April last year, written to DRDO to reschedule test-fire of surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-3. The Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 Island in Gahirmatha sanctuary is home to millions of Olive Ridley turtles who come here to lay eggs. It may be noted here that the site being close to the missile-test facility poses hazards to breeding and nesting of turtles.

“Earlier, we had written to the defence ministry to reschedule the test-fire dates and on one occasion they had done so. Our concern is that the turtles should not be disturbed during nesting period,” former chief wildlife conservator Bijay Ketan Patnaik said.

Now, all eyes will be on Ministry of Defence MoD as to what steps will be taken to protect the soon to be endangered species.