What is the News?
The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) has expressed concern over the massive diversion of fresh water from the Brahmani river basin which could pose a grave threat to the Bhitarkanika mangroves in Odisha.
About Bhitarkanika Mangroves
Bhitarkanika Mangroves is a mangrove wetland in Odisha. It covers an area of 650 km in the Brahmani and Baitarani river deltas.
Ramsar Site: It was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2002.
Fauna: It is home to 62 mangrove species. Besides, 1,600 saltwater crocodiles crawl on the mudflats of the Bhitarkanika mangrove forest.
Significance: Mangroves grow in brackish water. Proportionate freshwater flow from the Brahmani river basin and the Kharasrota river keep the salinity level of the water along the shore down. Hence, the brackish water becomes ideal for the mangroves to grow and stay healthy.
What is the issue?
Talcher-Angul coal mines as well as the Kalinganagar steel and power hub are using enormous quantities of freshwater from the Brahmani river. Moreover, a huge amount of water flow would also be withdrawn for a mega drinking project.
This diversion and reduction in water flow in Brahmani river would lead to drastic changes in the water regime of the Bhitarkanika mangroves.
Note: The Sundarbans mangrove forest was drastically affected after the Farakka barrage was commissioned.
Moreover, lack of normal flow of freshwater would increase saline ingression upstream. This would affect the local flora and fauna as well as the livelihoods of the farmers and fishermen.
Besides, there could be a quantum increase in the man–crocodile conflict since the estuarine crocodiles would leave the core sanctuary area and migrate upstream once salinity increases.
Source: This post is based on the article “Experts flag diversion of fresh water from Brahmani river” published in The Hindu on 4th September 2021.