‘Ban sand mining in Satkosia, save Gharials’

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‘Ban sand mining in Satkosia, save Gharials’

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 | BIJAY MISHRA | BHUBANESWAR

A reduced water flow and THE rampant sand mining in the Mahanadi have posed a serious threat to the ecosystem, particularly to the Gharials.

The river Mahanadi is the ecological lifeline of Odisha with rich biodiversity and wildlife. Along with the Satkosia Tiger Reserve and Mahanadi Elephant Reserve, the Gharial Research Centre and Conservation Unit is completely dependent on the river ecosystem.

The Mahanadi river system is the third largest of peninsular India after the Godavari and Krishna and the largest river of Odisha. The flow of Mahanadi river water into the Hirakud dam project has gone down considerably in recent years due to construction of barrages and dams at the upper end of the river by the Chhattisgarh Government.

The flow of water during the non-monsoon period decreased by 30 per cent in recent past and the flow into the dam came down by 57 per cent. The reduced flow of water has greatly affected the ecosystem. The inordinate delay to solve the Mahanadi river dispute by the Water Dispute Tribunal constituted by the Central Government in 2018 further has worsened the ecosystem.

This apart, rampant illegal sand mining at Mahanadi near Athamallik has seriously affected the Gharial conservation. The illegal sand mining has further degraded the riverine habitat. Nesting and basking sites of the crocodiles are disturbed and lost and riverine species are affected. Recently, 30 Gharial hatchlings have been spotted in the fresh waters of Satkosia gorge, after 28 hatchlings last year.

“Natural nesting should be protected by completely banning sand mining at upper head of Satkosia gorge,” told Ranjit Pattanaik, a conservationist.  “The growth of critically endangered Gharials is a good indicator of clean river water. However, increased river pollution, dam construction ,illegal sand mining and poaching have posed a big threat to the ecosystem .The ambitious 'Gharial species recovery programme' to restore population of Gharials in the Mahanadi needs to be successfully implemented by creating a conducive atmosphere for breeding of the hatchlings,” told Pattanaik.

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