Kendrapara, April 18 (LocalWire): The Kendrapara district administration has exempted forest guards and other officials of Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahirmatha marine sanctuary from election-related duties during the fourth phase of elections on 29 April.
Dasarathi Satapathy, the collector of Kendrapara, said engaging forest staff in the elections would hamper the wildlife protection drive and forest protection work.
‘We decided not to engage any forest officials or guards as the forest guards are engaged in protecting the sea turtles in the world’s largest rookery of the endangered Olive Ridleys by patrolling the sea to prevent illegal fishing since fishing is banned from 1November to 31 May,’ he added.
The forest department is facing a severe shortage of staff in Bhitarkanika for which any diversion of staff or of vehicles used for patrolling would compromise wildlife and forest conservation, said Sudhanshu Parida, an environmentalist and secretary of the district unit of Peoples for Animals.
In summer, many spotted deer and wild boars venture out from the park to nearby ponds and other water bodies. Summer, therefore, is the time when poachers go for the kill by trapping the animals near the village ponds where they stray and the forest department needs more forest guards, added Parida.
‘In 2009, the Election Commission of India had issued a standing order directing chief secretaries and chief election officers of all states to exempt vehicles and staff of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country from election duties, said Hemant Rout, an environmentalist and the secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society.
‘We have already arrested 840 fishermen and seized 102 fishing vessels in Gahiramatha on charges of illegally fishing within the periphery of the marine sanctuary from 1November,’ said Arabinda Mishra the forest range officer of the marine sanctuary.