Orissa, a state whose mineral deposits have always lured industries across the world is now experiencing a rapid inflow of foreign investment. Many steel companies are setting up their manufacturing units in the state now, and along with it they want to develop their own captive/commercial port to facilitate their import and export activities.
Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) is one of the world’s smallest sea turtle, it is a species classified as Endangered by the IUCN. It has its biggest nesting sites on Orissa coast, these sites are also known as “arribadas”, located along the coast line in vicinity of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary. These sites are under immediate threat of getting destroyed by ongoing industrial activities in the region.
We have used Geospatial tools to identify the habitats and effect of industrial activities on them, and to find out, an economically viable solution to this ecological threat. Images taken from various source were used for studies on PC based ERDAS IMAGINE 8.4 and PC based ARC VIEW 3.2 Software.
Olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are a widely distributed species, and they exhibit the phenomenon of synchronous mass nesting, known as arribadas (or arribazones, which is the correct Spanish usage).Olive ridleys are considered the most abundant of the sea turtles (Pritchard, 1997).Nesting aggregates of over 100,000 females have been reported from Pacific Mexico, Pacific Costa Rica and Orissa on the east coast of India (Marquez et al., 1976; Pritchard,1997; Pandav et al., 1998).Despite their seeming abundance and wide distributions, many populations have been greatly depleted by human activities including exploitation, habitat destruction and fishery-related mortality (Limpus, 1995; Pritchard 1997; Pandav et al.,1998).The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) lists olive ridleys on Appendix I (prohibited from international trade) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the species as Endangered.
In the western Indian Ocean, olive ridley turtles nest along the east coast of Africa, and in Oman, Pakistan and Gujarat, India. Olive ridleys also nest on the east coast of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and in other south east Asian countries. In India, a few thousand olive ridleys nest in northern Tamil Nadu (Bhupathy and Saravanan,2002), Andhra Pradesh (Tripathy and Choudhury) and the Andaman and Nicobar islands (Andrews et al., 2001). However, the single most important breeding area for olive ridleys in the Indian Ocean is Orissa, which has three known arribada beaches at Gahirmatha, Devi River mouth and Rushikulya (Pandav et al., 1998).Recent genetic studies indicate that olive ridley rookeries on the east coast of India are distinct from other ridleys worldwide and might be ancestral to populations in other ocean basins, which increases the conservation importance of this particular population, as an evolutionarily significant unit as well as a management unit (Shanker et al., 2000).Arribadas occur at many sites in Orissa, of which Gahirmatha, first reported by Bustard (1974, 1976) is considered the most important. This population has been simultaneously labeled as the ‘world’s largest’ (from Bustard, 1976 to Patnaik et al., 2001) and as’ highly endangered’ (from Davis and Bedi, 1978 to Patnaik et al., 2001). though in this paper we will be primarily concerned with olive ridley and the problems faced by its population as a result of rapid industrialization along the coast line of Orissa but we would also like to remind you of the fact that the study area is very sensitive being a coastal zone adjoining ‘Sundarbans’, and many other unique flora and fauna have been discovered in this region which face the danger of getting wiped out if their natural habitat is disturbed.
Orissa, on the east coast of India, has a coastline of 480 km, which is largely sandy and suitable for nesting, apart from the Balasore coast north of Gahirmatha which is shallow and muddy. Gahirmatha (21_N and 87_E) is the northernmost of the arribada beaches, _35 km long, at the mouth of the rivers Brahmani and Baitarani (Fig.1 ). It is part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife sanctuary and the offshore waters (up to a distance of 20 km) have been declared as the Gahirmatha National Park. Until 1989, nesting occurred on a 10 km beach near the river mouth. In 1989, a cyclone cut off a 5 km spit from the mainland and subsequently, nesting has occurred on islands which are fragments of this spit. Since 1996, this island, known as Ekakula Nasi, has changed drastically from year to year. In 1997, it became fragmented into two islands, 1.1 km and 2.8 km long and a few hundred meters wide. In 1999, arribadas occurred on two islands which were 2 km long and 50-100 m wide (K. Shanker and B.Pandav, personal observation).
After the cyclone in October 1999, the islands became narrower and further fragmented. Rushikulya, located 320 km south of Gahirmatha, is the southernmost of the arribada rookeries and was discovered in 1994 (Pandav et al., 1994).
Nesting occurs on a 4 km beach north of the Rushikulya River mouth. The rookery at Devi River mouth, located north of Puri, was discovered in 1981 (Kar, 1982).Nesting at this rookery occurs on the mainland as well as on dynamic sand bars that change from year to year. The three principal mass nesting beaches in Orissa at Gahirmatha, Devi River Mouth and Rushikulya are our area of concern.
(Image showing the nesting sites)
Mineral resources in Orissa:
The State is endowed with vast mineral deposits like coal, iron-ore, manganese-ore, bauxite, chromite etc. According to All India Mineral Resources Estimates, the mineral deposits of Orissa in respect of chromite, nickel, cobalt, bauxite, and iron-ore were about 98.4%, 95.1%, 77.5%, 52.7% and 33.4% respectively of the total deposits of India. Other important mineral resources of the State are limestone, china clay, quartz, precious and semi-precious stones, copper, vanadium, etc.
The main exported minerals of the State are chromite, coal, dolomite, iron-ore, manganese and bauxite. The value of The State is endowed with vast mineral deposits like coal, iron-ore, manganese-ore, bauxite, chromite, etc.
Mineral Production of Orissa 20002001 (Provisional) was 2,776.15 crore rupees and 5.23% share to All India value. The total productions of Minerals and Ores in the State during 2001-2002 was 749.79 lakh tones valued at Rs. 2,776.15 crore in 2000-2001 registering an increase of 8.79% in quantity and 4.84% in value.
Major projects being carried out in the coastal zone:
There are some projects being developed by some of the world’s biggest steel companies and proposals for some other projects are being discussed by the government and interested companies. These projects are bringing the much awaited FDI and job opportunity in the state. These projects require a lot of import and export of raw material, machinery and finished products to and from their factories.
For this very purpose of facilitating the import and export these units have proposed for developing their own port facility. Major proposals are from TATA and L&T who want to develop Dhamra port, a 50:50 venture between TATA and L&T. Another proposal comes from the Korean firm POSCO which wants to develop its own captive port which saves them the efforts and cost of developing a transport channel to the Paradip port.
Besides the steel consortium there are also some sites which have been identified for their mineral oil and gas deposits and Reliance industries is expected to carry out drilling at approx 20 sites in the region.
Effects of these activities:
The port and its attendant infrastructure, accompanying industrial and residential development, artificial lighting and the shipping traffic it will attract are only some of the problems it poses for the turtles and their hatchlings. A serious threat will also be posed by
the amount of dredging required to create and maintain the shipping channels at the necessary depth .The development of the port will also lead to an industrialization spree in the area, with the attendant hazards posed by an increased population, lighting, pollution etc. While the port sites itself may not be a nesting ground, the coastal waters are turtle habitat and there are many reports of turtle sightings in the area. Obviously, such large turtle congregations depend on the natural food chain and ecology of the area to sustain them. Along with it there is also a risk of oil spill and water pollution from the oil exploration activities and increased shipping traffic in the region.
Proposed solution to this environmental hazard:
Though we will be getting a lot in terms of monetary gains and improved lifestyle of the residents of that area but the environmental hazard is also present there. So we understand that the administrative bodies there are caught between the two aspects of development and environmental protection.
Therefore we suggest that instead of developing all new ports in the vicinity of Paradip port facilities at the Paradip port can be improved upon and modernized, this will minimize the effects to the existing level only, at least in terms of their spatial extent.
We have also identified the locational attributes of the 3 major arribadas along the coast line and tried to create two buffers using geospatial tools around them thus earmarking the area not to be used for industrial activities. These buffers are made in compliance to a 2002 directive of the Ministry of Environment, based on the government of India’s National Wildlife Action Plan, that a radius of 10 km. from all existing parks and sanctuaries be declared ‘eco-sensitive areas’ and large-scale industrial development be kept away from these areas. Additionally, the central government’s own guidelines for industries ask that they be located at least 25 km. away from ecologically sensitive areas. The area falling under these zones should be utilized with utmost caution and care.
We have used images from Google earth and Wikimapia, which were used to identify the areas and in geocorrection of the Terra/MODIS images we used to carry out the analysis. GPS was used to provide coordinates for the nesting sites, here it has to be mentioned that we have obtained the coordinates for a point only which falls in the nesting site only as there was no clear boundary for those sites hence the sites are only indicative and they extend even outside the area we have shown here. Similarly for port sites.
The procedure we adopted is as follows:
- Geocorrection and resampling of satellite image was done using PC based ERDAS imagine 8.4.
Projection System: UTM
Datum: WGS84 (Zone: 45N)
- Image was added as a theme in Arcview 3.2a.
- A new point layer was created over the image depicting the arribadas.
- Again a point layer was created showing locations of port sites (existing and proposed) along the coast line of Orissa.
- Two buffers were created. One primary buffer is shown in red (radius 10 km) and a secondary buffer in yellow (radius 25 km).
- Theme containing locational attributes of port sites was displayed over the buffers to check if they fall in the buffer zone or not.
Results and discussion:
(Image: Showing the arribadas with buffers and location of existing and proposed port sites)
Here in the image we can observe the fact that two port sites are coming well within the 25 km zone around the arribadas (in the yellow zone or the secondary buffer).These ports will be able to accommodate capesize vessels. The port and its attendant infrastructure, accompanying industrial and residential development, artificial lighting and the shipping traffic it will attract are only some of the problems it poses for the turtles and their hatchlings.
A serious threat will also be posed by the amount of dredging required to create and maintain the shipping channels at the necessary depth. The development of the port will also lead to an industrialization spree in the area, with the attendant hazards posed by an increased population, lighting, pollution etc.
Though the port sites themselves are not a nesting ground, the coastal waters are turtle habitat and there are many reports of turtle sightings in these areas during the turtle season (November to May) each year. Obviously, such large turtle congregations depend on the natural food chain and ecology of the area to sustain themselves. Similarly these Turtles form a part of the ecosystem present there, if ongoing human activities force the turtles to move away from the area then it might affect the ecosystem and food web adversely.
It was apprehended by Mr. Mohanty, the chief minister of Orissa that, “Any port on the south side of the Gahirmatha Sanctuary would be disastrous for the nesting beaches, since they would be eroded due to the disturbance caused to the sea currents”. And a similar Threat is there for the Paradip port as well because the disturbances caused due to sea currents might create problems for the existing Paradip port which is not far from Jatadhari (a proposed site for development of a captive port).
There are other issues as well like the probable impact on livelihoods of thousands of fishermen in the region, as the construction of the port and dredging in particular could result in the destruction and pollution of breeding and spawning grounds of fish, besides leading to a situation where the fisher folk cannot fish in their own local areas.
Again the biodiversity in this area can get adversely affected; for example the mudflats (actual port site) are a mating and nesting ground for Horseshoe crabs. Additionally, a rare species of frog F. cancrivora (never before recorded in mainland India) has been discovered in this area. If caution is not taken during the development of ports then many such species can get adversely affected.
In spite of all these facts there is bright site to it as well. These industries will bring the long awaited investment in this area which for years has been left on its own and is devoid of most of the civil infrastructure. Ones these industries start working they will provide direct and indirect employment to thousands of people from neighbouring areas. The state government will be benefited as well from the revenue theses industries will generate.
Here we can suggest that development is essential but it has to be made sure that the development is sustainable. Issues where there is a very thin line between loss and gain or pros and cons always require very comprehensive analysis and consideration of numerous aspects related to it. This creates our need for a tool that can assist us in such decision making, and here GIS emerges as an essential tool.GIS with its vast and varied features can almost be used in any field and can reduce the amount of time and efforts required for a particular task; improving on the accuracy and reliability. When it comes to economic development at cost of environment and nature then there will always be a question regarding its viability and sustainability. In such situations one should be quick to consider other available options, if they can help in protecting the ecosystem there.
- An assessment of the olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea) nesting population in
Orissa, India, Kartik Shanker, Bivash Pandav, B.C. Choudhary.
- DASH, M.C. & C.S. KAR (1980). The turtle paradise – Gahirmatha
- Fundamentals of GIS (Burrow and Eklund)
Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics
Ateet Vatan Bahmani
Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics.