Fishy facts

Fishy facts The monsoon session of the Orissa Assembly had witnessed uproarious scenes on the prevailing illegal prawn culture in the state and the consequent damages to the coastline and mangrove forests.

The prawn mafia infiltrated Orissa since 1991-92, from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, along Orissa's 480-km long coastline. Within three years, it endangered the coastline, besides adversely affecting 2,835 ha of reserve forest area and 20,000 ha of fallow land.

The prawn mafla craftily purchases few hectares of land along the coastline, and gradually encroaches the delta. The raising of prawn-ponds or gheries obstructs water flow to croplands compelling the cultivator to sell the land to the mafia; the noncanalisation of water from them gheries poses serious irrigation problems. About 30,000 croplands were found to be non-usable because of the gheries, where saltwater inflow hampered the crop growth.

Officially, at present 6,000 gheries are operating in Orissa, the unofficial figure being more than 10,000. An estimated 2,835 he of reserve forest area including the Bhitarkanika national park is also under the maf ia's control.

During the Assembly session, the government was pressuried into agreeing to form two task forcess to tackle this problem. These forces would study the region stretching from Balasore to Put!, and prepare a report on Ganjam coastline comprising Gopalpur and Chilika.

In many coastal areas, where the government has [eased out land to the fisherpeople and cooperative societies for economic growth, the mafla rules the lands. In the Mankadichia-Juarla river delta, pattas for 202.5 ha of lands were issued to the landless poor, only to be usurped by five prawn companies.

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