Kendrapara, June 24 (LocalWire): Villagers in Mahakalapada block on Monday blocked the main road at Kharinasi-Ramanagar demanding that the administration shut down the illegal prawn gherries in the area.
The villagers allege that the unchecked growth of prawn farms and untreated effluents released by them has rendered useless around 3,000 hectares of fertile agriculture lands in Ramanagar, Kharinashi, Batighar, Kansarbadadandua, Suniti, Jamboo, Tubi and other villages.
Prawn farm owners also dump the effluents from prawn gherries into the nearby rivers and ponds further polluting the water sources, including the groundwater, sources in the villages claimed.
“Our villages were famous as the rice bowl of the district but now the area looks like a small island in the middle of the vast prawn farms that occupies nearly 400 acres.
We are now battling against the prawn farm owners to save our agricultural lands and water bodies.
Illegal prawn farms also pose a direct threat to the nearby rich mangrove forests,” pointed out Sudrashan Das of Kharinashi village.
“I used to cultivate paddy but my land has become barren due to the discharge from the nearby prawn gherries,” informed another villager Mukunda Ray.
When contacted Kendrapada sub-collector Sanjay Mishra said that the administration is taking action to dismantle all illegal prawn gherries soon. “We had demolished large tracks of illegal prawn farms earlier,” he said.
However, prawn farmers are up-in-arms over the decision of the authorities to demolish their farms.
“Paddy cultivation is not a profit-making business anymore and hence we have converted our lands into prawn farms and the officials have no right to take action against us,” argues Rabindra Das, a prawn farm owner of Kharinashi.
Sources point out that shrimp farms in the area are illegal as they violate the Coastal Regulation Zone and the rulings of the Supreme Court and the High Court.
Farmers cultivating shrimp without registering with the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) are liable to be imprisoned for three years and a fine of up to Rs one lakh.
The AAA requires registration of all shrimp farms lying on either side of rivers, creeks, and canals up to a distance of five km from the high tide level.
“Shrimp farms not registered are liable for demolition,” said Gahiramatha Marine Turtle and Mangrove Protection Society secretary Hemant Rout.