Maharashtra: Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in Dabhol project backyard faces new threat, CM steps in

Maharashtra: Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in Dabhol project backyard faces new threat, CM steps in

Every year between October and March, dozens of female Olive Ridley turtles, swim many miles to the 6.5km pristine Guhagar beach to lay their eggs.

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 11:48 PM IST
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Maharashtra: Olive Ridley turtle nesting site in Dabhol project backyard faces new threat, CM steps in | File Photo

Tucked away in a quiet stretch of the Konkan coast is a little-known nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles close to the Dabhol power project and now threatened by a proposed road network that has alarmed environmentalists and also Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.

Every year between October and March, dozens of female Olive Ridley turtles, the smallest of all sea turtles in the world, swim many miles to the 6.5km pristine Guhagar beach to lay their eggs. It is to preserve their nesting ground to which they return year after year that Shinde earlier this month ordered immediate action to stop the road project, according to activists and official letters.

Environmentalists ask government to stop further work

The proposal to build a large network of 12metre roads along the beach and to the hinterland threatened the eco-sensitive nesting site. This prompted a letter by environmentalists asking that the government to stop any further work on the project detailed in a Draft Development Plan published by the Guhagar Nagar Panchayat on February 9.

The letter set the wheels rolling. Industry Minister (and concurrent district minister) Uday Samant wrote to the chief minister, saying the plan had not "considered the ecology and geographical situation of Guhagar town".

The minister in the letter said locals had complained that the proposed plan would “destroy the environment and hugely harm the precious wildlife in the area”. He sought cancellation of the proposed development plan.

CM asked chief secretary of urban development to act immediately

Taking note, Shinde asked his additional chief secretary for urban development to act immediately, officials said. The Guhagar beach is a sanctuary of various rare birds and marine life, including the Olive Ridley turtle protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The turtles get their name from their olive-coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. They are known for their unique mass nesting called arribada, where females come together on the same beach to lay eggs. They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers.

At Guhagar, environmentalists and locals conserve the nests and release the hatchlings once they come out of eggs after about 45-65 days.

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