Missile testing must heed turtles' nesting: Ramesh to Antony

Environment minister wants defence minister to ensure DRDO testing doesn't impede the nesting of Olive Ridley turtles

neha

Neha Sethi | May 4, 2011



Environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh has written to defence minister A K Antony to request him to ensure that the missile testing facility of defence research and development organisation (DRDO) at Wheeler Island in Orissa follows conditions imposed by the forest department.

In a letter dated May 2, Ramesh has said, “I am informed that while granting permission to DRDO, the state forest department has imposed certain conditions which include restriction on test firing during turtle breeding and nesting times. I am told that this condition is violated routinely. This has had adverse impacts on breeding and nesting of Olive Ridley turtles for which the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary is perhaps the most important location in the world.”

Ramesh has requested Antony to personally intervene to ensure that DRDO complies with the conditions stipulated when the approval was given in 1993. He has said that DRDO should take ‘extra measures suggested by the state forest department in protecting and conserving the Wheeler Island ecosystem as well.’

The permission to DRDO was granted in 1993-1994 for establishing a missile test firing facility in Wheeler Island. Wheeler Island is very close to the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary.

Biswajit Mohanty, the co-ordinator of Operation Kachhapa, a turtle conservation group said that every year bright illumination and firing of missiles during the turtle breeding and nesting season affects the sea turtles. “Sea turtles are extremely sensitive to illumination and bright lights usually drive away the adults while attracting the hatchlings. Similarly, the vibrations caused by missile firing could possible impact the fragile egg shells of lakhs of eggs which are buried in the sand in the nesting beach,” he added.

Mohanty said that inspite of regular requests by the state government to stop such activities during the nesting season from November to March, DRDO continues with such activities without being concerned over the effects on the turtle population. Every year, numerous letters are dispatched by the local district forest officer and the chief wildlife warden, Orissa to the DRDO urging them not to carry out missile testing during the turtle season and to shut off all lights.

According to the forest department in Orissa, more than 2.5 lakh turtles nested at the site this year.

A copy of the letter has been attached.

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