The ocean covers twice the landmass what our planet earth holds. But the activities of man are increasing so fast that the whole earth and the ocean are poisoned. With increasing pollution, the latter seems to have turned into a death trap for every living creature, including man.
India has world’s seventh largest coastline which measures over 7,500 km. Nine States and two Union Territories lie along the coastline. One-fifth of the population of the country lives in coastal areas. Odisha is bounded by the Bay of Bengal. When the western coast of India is narrow with several havens and creaks, the eastern coast is wider with deltas of several large medium rivers. The eastern coast is more cyclone- prone than the western coast. Hence, Odisha is more prone to cyclone because it covers 480 km of coastline with ecosystems which is thoroughly under depredatory activities of man for various reasons. About per cent 70 to 75 per cent of the total biodiversities of oceanic lives are confined to the estuaries of this region.
Now, thirteen new ports are going to be established along the sea-shore in addition to the existing ports of Paradip, Gopalpur and Dhamra, which are to function very close to different river mouths, where mangrove forests are present. Mangrove swamps are known as Mangal. The Mangals protect the landmass from erratic actions of the ocean. In spite of all these known facts, we take for granted the ocean as bottomless dustbin, where untreated sewages are discharged, including industrial pollutants, oil, plastics and silt.
Burning of dead body at Ganga river
For example, 4,000 to 5,000 dead bodies are cremated every day in the different Ghats (banks) of river Ganga. Most of the dead bodies are chemically treated to avoid decomposition. Generally, the riverbanks and sea or bay shores are used as cremation yards. The biodiversities of the ocean, rivers and estuaries are at a stake because of serious pollution. Instead of being sweet homes, they have now turned graveyards for the marine lives.
There are a few cetaceous animals that live within the sea. Cetaceous means oceanic mammals. They are whales, dolphins and dugongs. All the three sea animals are found in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Two giant marine animals found in the ocean are shark fish and whale. The blue whale is the largest animal in the earth that now lives in the ocean. It reaches 30 m (98 ft) in length and over 170 tones in weight. The shark can go up to 16 m (52.5 ft). Whale is twice as big the dinosaurs but it feeds on smallest creatures. Shark lives on planktons spread over ocean, lake and river. During 2007, a huge skeleton of a shark was recovered from the Astarang coast in Puri district. The reason of death is not yet known. Probably, this was the first time such a huge skeleton was found so far in the Odisha coast. The death of dolphins is very usual in our case. The dugongs have vanished from the Chilika lagoon, which once was their homeland. This species is no longer noticed in the Odisha coast.
The shark is hunted mainly for extraction of oil from its liver. It has wide commercial market for preparation of medicines. This species feed upon planktons, which is a wandering drifted organism. So, it is easy to hunt this fish for commercial gain. The skeleton found from Astarang-shore has been now kept in the National Historical Museum in Bhubaneswar without proper protection measures.
It is high time the Odisha Government prepared plans to ensure that its long seacoast remains pollution-free and the oceanic animals live safely.
The writer is a former senior forest officer and an environmentalist