`Factory effluents endangering Olive Ridleys in Orissa coast'

BHUBANESWAR OCT. 13. The effluents discharged from a fertilizer factory at Paradip has posed a new threat to the lives of the endangered Olive Ridleys which come to the Orissa coast every year for nesting.

The private sector company, Oswal Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited, continues to flout all environmental laws since it began production in January 2000, alleged Biswajit Mohanty, Project Coordinator of `Operation Kachhapa', a sea turtle preservation project being run under the aegis of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

In a statement, Mr. Mohanty said State Government officials had consistently ignored the damaging activities of the unit and patronised the plant. Even when gas leaked out from the factory affecting paddy crop and the people in as many as 62 villages in Mahakalapada block of Kendrapara district last month, no arrests were made. The plant was also not closed down by the State Pollution Control Board. "The State Government continues to hoodwink the local people by ordering facile and useless inquiries," Mr. Mohanty alleged.

He said that prior to last month's gas leakage, the factory was closed for illegal discharge of pollutants and failure to install pollution control measures. But the Central Pollution Control Board allowed the unit to reopen a few months ago, without ensuring that it had installed proper pollution control equipment. The fish catch by nearly 10,000 country fishermen had been affected due to continued discharge of dangerous effluents into the Mahanadi river downstream of the Oswal factory, he added.

Mr. Mohanty said the food chain of the marine ecosystem on the Orissa coast was being affected as strong ocean current at the river mouth easily carried these pollutants to vital eco-sensitive areas and turtle mass nesting sites of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and the Devi river mouth. With the death of the benthic fauna of the riverbed and the seabed close to the shore, the food chain of the sea turtle was being upset. "This would affect the food supply of nearly half a million sea turtles which arrive here," he warned. Thousands of Olive Ridleys were also being killed by illegal mechanised trawling along the State's coast every year. "Unless immediate measures are taken, Orissa's greatest natural heritage, the Olive Ridleys, would fail to return in the future," he said.

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