Bhubaneswar, Apr 20: Over one lakh turtles have been found dead on the Orissa coast, the largest mass nesting site for turtles, during the last 13 years making it the ''world's largest turtle graveyard''.
In a statement here Operation Kachhap Coordinator Biswajit Mohanty claimed that despite high casualty the Orissa government refused to acknowledge that thousands of turtles continue to be killed due to lack of protection. Last year alone more than 9,000 turtles died against the state government's figure of 3,217.
He alleged that government was yet to implement the Central Empowered Committee(CEC) orders for turtle protection passed in April, 2004.
The situation is a chilling repeat of the Sariska tigers issue where both Centre and state governments went on covering up the truth by proclaiming upto the last day that Sariska's tigers were doing fine when the ground reality was different, Mr Mohanty alleged.
The endangered Olive Ridleys continue to be massacred despite availability of Rs.10 million fund donated by Indian Oil for buying speed boats for patrolling the coast to ensure turtle protection.
Similarly, the fisheries department, he said had not spent a Rs.10 million grant to purchase speed boats even after 8 years.
The law, he said had stipulated that the trawlers in Orissa have to use Turtle Excluder Devices(TED) but not a single trawler has been using TEDs.
Fishing has been rampant at Devi mouth inside the prohibited zone where 30-40 trawlers could be seen every day. One could witness more dead turtles at Devi river mouth owing to uncontrolled illegal fishing.
Mr Mohanty said Olive Ridley sea turtle is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 adding that any trapping, killing or selling this species could result in a maximum of 7 years imprisonment. Ironically not a single person has so far been convicted in Orissa and this showed the total lack of commitment and sincerity of the state government to protect the endangered sea turtle.
The Operation Kachhap Coordinator said state government has claimed recently that turtle mortality has declined in the state during 2005-06 and put the figure of casualty at 3,242 only.
But these figures were ridiculously low and revealed the gross inaccurate counting of dead turtles. He claimed that at least 9,783 dead turtles have washed ashore during the 6 month period from October 2005 to March 2006.
It is unthinkable that no turtle casualties were noticed during February and March when they congregate in thousands close to the shore and were more susceptible to be trapped in fishing nets.
He further said more than 6000 dead turtles washed ashore in beaches outside the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary while an estimated 3,500 turtles have died inside the marine Sanctuary.