Experts concerned over impact of cyclone on ecology
Cyclone Fani, on course to making landfall along the Odisha coast on Friday afternoon, is likely to play havoc with local and marine ecology, experts have said.
The tidal surge will increase the salinity of the Chilika, the sub-continent’s largest brackish water lake, affecting marine life. The gushing waters will also damage cashew and casuarina plantations, and inundate ponds where shrimp farming is done.
Spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts, Chilika is the wintering ground for thousands of birds and also supports the Irrawaddy dolphin. More than 200,000 people earn their living from fishing in the lake. The lake is already under much stress, battling sedimentation and commercial prawn farming.
Seafood exporters said shrimp farmers could take a huge hit after the cyclone. Regional president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India Kamlesh Mishra said tidal waves would inundate ponds and wash away the shrimp harvest. “Once the harvest is washed away, no one knows where it would land up. Many farmers who lost a lot during the 2013 Phailin cyclone... will be hit hard again,” he said.
After the 2013 Phalin cyclone, the sea water had left large tracts of land unfit for cultivation. “Many trees dried up in areas where the soil turned saline. It takes years to grow new ones,” said a professor at the Odisha Agriculture Technical University, Bhubaneshwar, not wishing to be named.
The Odisha forest department is worried the cyclone could put at risk spotted deer and other animals at the Balukhand wildlife sanctuary located along the coast, between the towns of Puri and Konark. “There is no specific plan for their protection,” said Odisha chief conservator of forests P K Mohapatra. “The bamboo groves and casuarina plants in the sanctuary may help protect the animals.”
Biswajit Mohanty of Odisha Wildlife Society said the Olive Ridley turtles were safe as they returned to sea after a good nesting season at Rushikulaya, near Gahirmatha.