Rajahmundry: The illegal felling of mangrove forests has become rampant, with villagers are clearing forested areas to take up aquaculture, which offers them huge profit margins. This trend has been observed at the Samanthakur village of Allavaram mandal in East Godavari. The residents of Samanthakur have cleared over 33 acres of the total 250 acres of mangrove forest. They are preparing to dig up tanks and ponds for the cultivation of fish. The mangrove forests are located on lands owned by the Revenue Department, and villagers are beginning to encroach upon them. Allegations are being made of the existence of an aqua mafia that instigates and encourages villagers to encroach upon the forest.
Members of the mafia reportedly intend to lease the land, from villagers, at a nominal price and make large amounts of money through aquaculture.
Though authorities of the forest department have implemented measures to safeguard reserved forest areas and sanctuaries from encroachment, they have not paid attention to the encroachment of mangrove forests. Since mangrove forests are considered to be deemed forests, they are supposed to be protected by the revenue depa-rtment. But the authorities seem to be doing nothing to prevent the forest from being denuded. Villagers even using heavy earth-moving machinery to clear the forest, but their activities have not been curbed.
Wildlife experts say that the mangrove forests are home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna. They say that the forest offers multiple benefits as it is positioned between the land and the sea. It serves as a natural barrier against the impact of waves, storms, and high-velocity winds from the sea. It absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. It helps reduce soil erosion, and it also regulates the seepage of sea water into fresh water aquifers.
Wildlife conservationist A. Appa Rao says, “Local villagers are felling mangrove forests to clear the land. They even use heavy machinery to dig out ponds and fish tanks, which is in blatant violation of the law. We appeal to the concerned authorities to curb such illegal activities and protect the forest.” G. Ganesh Kumar, the RDO of Amalapuram, says that the Department will look into the issue and take the necessary steps to ensure that any illegal activities are stopped.
i) The mangrove forest of Samanthakur serves as a habitat for fishing cats, otters, jackals and hundreds of other species.
ii) The mangrove forest in Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary had also been encroached upon by villagers taking up aquaculture, but those practices were effectively curbed through the intervention of district authorities....