Increased use of non-biodegradable materials by traditional fishermen in recent times has started to pollute remote beaches by such wastes.

This came to the fore during the cleaning of four-km stretch of sandy beach near Rushikulya rookery on Ganjam district coast near Berhampur city by schoolchildren before the start of mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles. With the support of the forest department, student members of eco clubs of five schools of the area took part in this beach cleaning drive.

Members of Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC), Odisha Marine Resource Consortium (OMRC), Turtle Action Group (TAG) and social organisation United Artists’ Association (UAA) also participated in the drive to enthuse the schoolchildren and increase awareness among them regarding importance of wildlife and environment protection. Local panchayat body members and Assistant Conservator of Forests Trinath Patnaik were also present.

They cleaned up four-km stretch of the beach from Podampeta to Gokharkuda, where most Olive Ridleys nest every year. Mass nesting of Olive Ridleys is expected to start in a few days. Sporadic nesting in small number has already started.

During the cleaning of the beach, it was found that this coast which is usually not visited by outsiders is also getting polluted by non-biodegradable waste. According to Sankar Narayan Beja, the Ganjam district coordinator of eco clubs in schools said the non-biodegradable waste collected from the beach was mostly debris of items used by traditional fishermen for their livelihood.

Gone are the days when they were using cotton nets. Now they are using nylon nets and pieces of these non-biodegradable nets were found abundantly. There were also several pieces of polystyrene as these are being used as floats of nets in place of traditional wooden floats. Use of plastic bottles has also increased manyfold among the fishermen which were also found in large number. The school students also cleaned up other wastes like debris of screw pine and wood pieces from various sources like boats.

Competitions in essay writing, debate, art as well as a quiz were held on topics related to protection of bio-diversity and Olive Ridley turtles.

BERHAMPUR, February 16, 2016