The hapless Olive Ridley turtles are in turmoil again. Environmentalists have expressed concern over the activities of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (drdo) on Orissa's Wheeler's Island near the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary -- the largest nesting ground for the turtles. Night-time floodlights on the island continue to disorient the turtle hatchlings.
When President A P J Abdul Kalam headed drdo, he ensured that the authorities masked the floodlights completely in the nesting season. But after his departure, defence officials have discontinued this practice. Artificial lights from the establishment, the construction of a major port near Gahirmatha, and mushrooming aquaculture farms and chemical industries have increased illumination near the nesting beaches.
Hatchlings typically emerge at night and are guided by following the brightest point on the horizon -- normally the sea. The presence of artificial lights confuses the hatchlings and large numbers get stranded on land, where they fall prey to predators.
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