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Prawn Boom Threatens Bhitarkanika: Odisha’s Fishing Frenzy Raises Environmental Alarms

Odisha’s vigorous promotion of fish farming has led to a surge in prawn gherries covering over 15,000 hectares in Kendrapara district, posing a grave threat to the delicate Bhitarkanika wetland. Concerns arise as toxic chemicals discharged by these gherries flow into the sea, jeopardizing the lush cover and wildlife habitat in the ecologically sensitive Bhitarkanika wetland.*

*The Orissa High Court has expressed discontent over the proliferation of prawn gherries and mandated the removal of illegal ones through drone-assisted identification by the district administration.*

*Reports indicate a staggering 747% increase in demand for Odisha’s saline fish for export over the past decade, with marine fish exports soaring from 11,460 tonnes in FY 2011-12 to a staggering 97,125 tonnes in FY 2022-23. Incentivized by the state government, fish cultivation has expanded to cover 17,780 hectares, with a particular focus on prawn cultivation.*

*Despite promoting fish farming as a means of livelihood, farmers exhibit a stronger inclination towards prawn cultivation over freshwater fish. Approximately 10,000 farmers engage in prawn cultivation on over 17,780 hectares, utilizing seawater and toxic chemicals. The discharge from prawn cultivation is harming the marine ecosystem and wildlife in Bhitarkanika wetland.*

*Environmentalists, including Hemant Kumar Rout, Ashok Kumar Swain, and Prabhu Prasad Mohapatra, voice concerns over the detrimental impact of mushrooming prawn gherries on Bhitarkanika’s environment. They call for the closure of government-approved gherries to safeguard the wetland.*

*Amar Kumar Pradhan, President of Maa Matia Mangala Prawn Farmers’ Federation, defends the economic benefits of prawn cultivation, citing its profitability and contribution to employment for over 10,000 youths. He emphasizes that cultivation adheres to government guidelines, warning that labeling all gherries as illegal and demolishing them could negatively impact economic growth.*

*The district fisheries extension officer, Shashank Sekhar Sahu, asserts that not all gherries are illegal, with many having received approval from the Fisheries department. He highlights the ongoing evaluation of hundreds of gherrie applications and the district Collector’s directive to identify and demolish illegal ones.*

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