Bhubaneswar, Dec 5:
50 on-shore and 6 off-shore patrolling camps would be set up by December to offer maximum protection to the highly endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles this year. Each camp will be manned by the forest staff and daily wage workers from the local community. Additional camp personnel as per the provisions of ICZM project shall also be posted.
The camps would be set up at Babubali, Agarnasi, new Devi Nasi island, Purunabandha and other identified locations. Each camp would be equipped with VHF communication, mobile phones and other materials.
This was decided at a review meeting of a high power committee held at the state secretariat on Thursday to take stock of the operation launched last month to protect the visiting Ridley turtle population.
Reviewing the progress in this regard , chief secretary JK Mohapatra asked the concerned authorities to involve the local communities, community based organizations and NGOs in the conservation and protection activities. He also asked the concerned departments to explore possibilities of webcasting the mass nesting scenes to project Odisha as a favoured destination of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.
The chief secretary asked the departments of Home, Fisheries, DRDO, Coast Guard, port authorities of Paradip, Gopalpur and Dhamra to be actively involved in this operation. He asked the concerned departments to take up aerial surveillance of the movement of the Ridley turtles and give advance information so that the Coastguard and joint patrolling teams would be able to take prompt action to protect the rare species.
The proposal to allow regulated eco-tourism activities in selected sites during the nesting season was also approved .
It was also decided that the state government would set up Sea Turtle Research Centre from its own fund if the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) does not agree to provide fund for the purpose.
Officials present at the meeting said the integrated approach to protection of the Ridley turtles has resulted in the arrival of large number of Ridley turtles along the Odisha coast for mass nesting and a drastic reduction in the turtle mortality figures over the last few years.
The meeting was informed that the number of Olive Ridley turtles visiting the state’s coast has gone up from 35,000 in 2001-02, to 465,000 in 2005-06, 513,000 in 2009-10 and 694,000 in 2012-13.
In 2010-11, the number of Ridley turtles was as high as 724,000.
In terms of the number of casualties the figure has declined over the years from 12,997 in 2001-02 to 5,003 in 2009-10 and 2,717 in 2012-13, officials said.
Circle level monitoring will be done at the level of regional chief conservators of forests of Bhubaneswar, Brahmapur and Baripada. The NGOs and community-based organisations would be involved for awareness campaign, mobilisation of fishing community, regulation of human activities at the nesting sites and safeguarding of the eggs.