Barrier to cyclone storms: Odisha plans to plant mangroves along its coast

The proposal is to raise mangroves and casuarinas in around 109 and 4,000 hectares of land along the coastal belt

By Hrusikesh Mohanty
Published: Friday 18 June 2021

The Odisha government has proposed to raise mangrove and casuarinas plantation in around 109 and 4,000 hectares of land, respectively, in the coastal belt. The state has around 480-kilometres-long coastal belt.

The mangrove forests will be raised under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) Phase-II; the casuarinas will be planted by the state resources. The coastal belt plantation aims to erect a strong, natural barrier against the strong winds during cyclones.

Odisha is one the most cyclone-prone states in the country, said a senior officer of the forest, environment and climate change department, Odisha government.

“We have identified the areas in the coastal belts for plantation of mangroves and casuarinas,” he said on the condition of anonymity.  According to the plan, mangroves would be planted in Balasore (50 hectares), Bhadrak (30 ha), Kendrapara (25 ha) and Puri (4 ha).

Similarly, the casuarinas block and gap plantations have been proposed in Balasore district (99 ha), Puri (300 ha), Bhadrak (5 ha), Ganjam (28 ha), Kendrapara (55 ha), Khurda (30 ha). Besides, another 3,500 ha of casuarinas (gap plantation with 400 seedlings per hectare) will be made in Chilika and Puri wildlife divisions, sources said.

Currently, the state has 219 square kilometres of mangrove forests in three districts. The actual area under mangrove plantation was less than the recorded area as prawn cultivators in Bhitarkanika often encroach the land, said Biswajit Mohanty, a wildlife activist.

The mangroves served as a natural barrier to cyclonic winds in Bhitarkanika National Park during Cyclone Yaas, which hit the state on May 26, 2021. The cyclone, with wind speed of around 145 km, devastated a few other areas, but its impact was not felt in Kalibhanjadiha island inside the national park due to the presence of mangroves, he added.

“We have urged the state government to quickly implement the proposal,” said SN Patra, president, Odisha Environmental Society. He said it was important to build the coastal shelter belt to protect the coastal areas. The Odisha coastal area is a wildlife hotspot as well as an economic zone, he said.  

The mangroves have acted as a bio-shield against the strong winds in all the cyclones that struck the state, said Sudhakar Mohapatra, a retired senior forest officer. As many as 96 cyclones have hit Odisha coast in the last 130 years. 

Odisha is vulnerable to various natural disasters like cyclone, flood, hailstorm, drought due to its unique geo-climatic condition. 

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