About Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area

About Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area

  • Bhitarkanika is a unique habitat of Mangrove Forests criss-crossed with numerous creeks and mud flats located in Kendrapara district of Orissa.
  • It is one of the largest Mangrove Eco systems in India,Bhitarkanika is home to diverse flora and fauna.
  • The Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area comprises of Bhitarkanika National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary and Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary approximating around 3000 km2 area of which around 4.8% (145 km2 ) area has mangrove cover.
  • Bhitarkanikais located in the estuary of Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra& Mahanadi river systems.
  • Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year. The tourist inflow has seen an increase lately.
  • The park is famous for its green mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles and countless creeks.
  • It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
  • In 1999 when coastal Odisha was battered by Super Cyclone, the rich mangrove forests had then acted as a bio-shield.
  • There was very little impact of the cyclone in the mangrove-forested regions.


Flora and Fauna

  • This deltaic, estuarine-mangrove wetland system, harbours the highest diversity of Indian mangrove flora, the largest known rookery of the olive ridley sea-turtles in the world, the last of the three remaining population of salt-water crocodiles in India, the largest known population of king cobra, one of the largest heronry along the east coast of India and one of the highest concentration of migratory waterfowls – both ducks and waders.


About Mangroves in India

  • A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal salineor brackish water.
  • The term is also used for tropical coastal vegetation consisting of such species.
  • Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropicsand subtropics, mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S.
  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees, also called halophytes, and are adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions.
  • They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex rootsystem to cope with salt water immersion and wave action.
  • They are adapted to the low oxygen (anoxic) conditions of waterlogged mud.
  • As per the ISFR 2017 report, the total area of mangrove cover of India is 4921 km2, which contributes 3.3% to the global mangrove cover.
  • The deltas of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, and Kaveririvers contain mangrove forests in India.


Challenges in protecting the wetland

  • The loss of mangrove of Bhitarkanika is mainly due to human encroachment and reclamation of land for agriculture and unsustainable resources use practices such as aquaculture activities.
  • Around 307 villages having 1.5 lakh people depend for fuel, fodder and other non-timber forest produce from the Bhitarkanika mangrove ecosystem.
  • Recent development activities such as construction of jetties, roads and the proposal of a major port at Dhamra threaten the existence of this ecosystem.
  • Declaration of the mangrove forests of Bhitarkanika as a Protected Area has affected the local people living around this forest due to lost access of their life support systems.
  • On the other hand the unsustainable resource use in the area is a major threat to continued existence of it.
  • The resulting scenario is one of conflicts between the forest department and the local people, fueled by the man animal conflict.


Way forward

  • Eco-development initiatives: Eco-development seeks to conserve biodiversity through economic development of local people and by developing alternatives to forest resources, thereby weaning them away from dependence on forests.
  • Reducing dependency of people: It is crucial to address the dependence of the local communities on the PA resources. It can be done through income generation programs/schemes.
  • Involving local people in tourism: It is imperative to involve local communities in tourism by training them as guides. This will provide employment for the local population and will give them a sense of responsibility.
  • Develop an effective public awareness program: Sustainability of conservation management approaches will depend on awareness of the values of conservation being perceived by local communities, governments and other stakeholders. Environmental awareness is a powerful tool for gaining support for conservation.
  • Integrated conservation planning:Integrated coastal zone management has been endorsed but there is a need of the legal and institutional frameworks necessary for this purpose.
  • Authorities can do the following:
    • Set standards and objectives for the integrated management of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area as a single unit and determine the cost of achieving these objectives.
    • Establish a process of cooperation and collaboration among various stakeholders in theBhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Collect and collate existing information on physical, biotic, and socioeconomic characteristics of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Identify status and trends of landscape level processes and functions within the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Identify current and future landscape disturbance regimes that are affecting or may affect the ecosystem.
    • Select the best among a number of development alternatives by identifying costly and environmentally unstainable effects of the possible alternative projects.
    • Establish a series of strategies, with timetables and benchmarks with detailed financial goals and budget projections, as well as criteria and methods for evaluating progress towards meeting the established goals.
    • Prioritize strategies and specific actions to carry out required policy and legal changes and monitoring of compliance at regular intervals.
  • For effective conservation and management of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area, it is important to go beyond protection measures for certain areas, habitats or landscape features, and impose binding requirements for coordination of sectoral policies at the scale of an ecological unit.
Section : Environment & Ecology