Berhampur (Odisha): A special drive would be launched soon by the administration in Odisha's Ganjam district to remove the illegal prawn gheries from Chilika, the biggest brackish water lake in the country.
The administration has identified around 5,600 acres of area, encroached by prawn cultivators in about 10 villages under Khallikote and Rambha tehsils in the district. The prawn cultivators have constructed over 50 illegal gheries inside the blue lagoon in these areas, officials said.
"We will launch a drive to remove the illegal prawn gheries in the lake very soon," Additional District Magistrate (revenue), Ganjam Sitanshu Rout, said.
A strategy meeting for the purpose, held at Chhatrapur on Monday, was attended by officials of revenue, fishery and forest departments and Chilika Development Authority (CDA).
"CDA will provide funds to remove the gheries," he said, adding, labour, mainly local fishermen and boats would be hired for the purpose. Police force will be deployed during the eviction to maintain law and order.
The 1200 sq km Chilika lake is spread over the three districts of Ganjam, Puri and Khurda. Mafias constructed the gheries inside the vast lake illegally for prawn culture, as prawn business is very lucrative. Even though the district administrations drive out the gheries, the prawn mafias construct it again for cultivation.
Though the eviction of gheries from the lake was an annual exercise of the district administration, the exercise was stopped in last two years due to cyclone Phailin and Hudhud in 2013 and 2014 respectively, officials said.
Chilika Matshyajibi Mahasangha, a federation of the fishermen depending on Chilika for their livelihood has been demanding removal of illegal gheries from the lake and steps to prepare a policy for fishing in the lake.
"Construction of illegal prawn gheries is not only robbing local fishermen of their livelihood but also destroying the fragile ecology of the biggest wetland of the country," activist Mangaraj Panda said and demanded a comprehensive policy for Chilika which is known for biodiversity.
The vast Chilika lake is a source of livelihood for lakhs of people of these three districts and also a safe haven for migratory birds during winter, Irrawadi dolphin and several other rare species.