Tatas to move out

The Orissa government and the house of Tatas, who jointly own the Rs 20-crore Chilika Aquatic Farms Ltd (CAFL), have agreed to move their operations away from the lake. The decision was reached at a meeting of top officials from both sides in December in Bhubaneshwar. The officials decided to look for an alternative site on the state's coastline between Balasore and Berhampur.

In the past two years, the shrimp farming project -- spread over 400 ha in Asia's largest brackish water lake from which it drew its name -- has drawn flak from environmental groups (Down To Earth, August 31, 1992). In the wake of the protests, the Union environment ministry ordered the suspension of the project, pending an environmental impact assessment by a multi-disciplinary expert body.

The decision to shift the project out of Chilika was prompted by a November 1993 verdict of the Orissa High Court, which prohibited "intensive methods of agriculture in Chilika".

A senior Tata official described the judgement as the "last nail in the coffin of CAFL". On the other hand, Banka Behari Das, leader of the Orissa Krushak Mahasangha -- prominent among the groups that campaigned against CAFL -- was buoyant. However, he warned his organisation would continue to agitate for the eviction of "several illegal prawn culture projects in the lake, whose continuing presence makes any scheme for the ecological restoration of the Chilika impossible".

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