An Upcoming Port in Karnataka is Shrinking Space for Olive Ridley Turtles

Environmental News from India:

  • In Karnataka, an upcoming port and the corresponding road and railway network could destroy a turtle nesting region in Honnavar in Uttara Kannada district.
  • Not just the turtles, environmental experts warn that the port will destroy the biodiversity of the Sharavathi river mouth, which is a rich breeding center for fish and has dense mangrove forests.
  • The port could also impact the Mugali Marine Protected Area, which is Karnataka’s first marine protected area that houses over 15 species that have the highest protection under India’s wildlife law.

Read part 1 of this series to understand Karnataka’s port-based development spree and what it means for the people living on the coast. In part 2, find out how a road connecting the ongoing Honnavar port project to the highway is affecting fisherwomen.

At about midnight on April 27, 2022, a moonless night, there was a flurry of action near the Sharavathi river mouth on the sandy beach of Kasarkod-Tonka, a few metres away from where the river meets the Arabian Sea. A small crowd of fishermen and members of Karnataka’s forest department of Honnavar range stood around a 1×1 square foot enclosure of green mesh net. They were looking inside the enclosure eagerly, flashing their torches, and taking videos. About 30 tiny olive ridley hatchlings had just made their way out of the nest, and they were squiggling and wiggling about in the sand.

One by one, the hatchlings were taken out, placed carefully in a tub of water, and carried near the shore. The turtles were placed on the sand. The group then stood near the shore, flashing their torches at the hatchlings (turtles move towards light), guiding them towards the sea.

Sea turtles in India are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This means that they are accorded the highest protection, and any harm caused to them is a punishable offence by law. In February 2021, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change launched the National Marine Turtle Action Plan (2021-2026). The action plan mentioned that one of the major threats to turtles is the construction of ports and jetties.

The beaches of Honnavar, a sub-district in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, cover seven coastal villages — Apsarkonda in the south, Kasarkod, Karki, Mallukurva, Haldipur, Manki, and Pavinkurve in the north.

2016 study of turtles along Karnataka’s coastline by Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute and marine conservation research outfit Dakshin Foundation says that Karnataka has been active in its turtle conservation efforts since 1984. A 2002 study on Karnataka’s coastline by the Wildlife Institute of India shows that the olive ridley’s nestings in Kasarkod in Honnavar were first recorded in 1984. Honnavar was where one of the first olive ridley hatcheries in the state was launched.

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Source: Mongabay

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