Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in Odisha could run out of freshwater in three decades – The New Indian Express


Express news service

BHUBANEWAR: Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, a key mangrove ecosystem in India, could face a severe freshwater supply crisis in the future as water discharges in the Brahmani and Baitarani river basins are expected to decline due to excessive demand for development projects and population growth in the region, says a latest report.

The report entitled “Hydro-ecological assessment for the integrated management of the Bhitarkanika Ramsar site” calculates that the freshwater supply of the sanctuary will fall to 46% (bp) of the availability of water resources over the next 30 years.

“The greatest threat appears to come from the mining and industrial activities of Talcher, in the Angul region, but the reduction in freshwater flow due to irrigation and diversion projects such as the drinking water mega project proposed in which the diversion of water is proposed from the Kharasotra River to other areas may further magnify the threat on several occasions, ”the report said.

The Ramsar site is home to the world’s largest population of saltwater crocodiles, a colony of olive ridley turtles, and a cushion against natural disasters. Currently, the mega project to supply drinking water on the Kharasrota river in Kendrapara district by the Odisha government has already sparked a huge controversy.

The report used a modeling system to calculate the availability of fresh water for the year 2051. It calculated that the water availability in the Brahmani basin will decrease to 31 pc in 2051 from 79 pc in 2001. In the basin of Brahmani Baitarani, the water flow will decrease to 35 pc in the following three decades against 61 pc in 2001.

Overall, the availability of water for the mangrove ecosystem will drop from 74.64 pc in 2001 to 46 pc after water consumption in the two basins.

Using land use and land cover (CALU), industrial activities as well as development activities, future demand was calculated. Industrialization, urbanization and population growth would increase the demand for water by 306 pc from the current demand in the two basins, which, according to the report, would reduce the availability of fresh water for the wildlife sanctuary of Bhitarkanika.

The report combined a field survey with secondary data to make the projections. He said the water demand for major and average irrigation irrigation will exceed 10,000 million cubic meters (MCM) in 2051 from the 2001 level of 2,000 MCM.

Aggregate demand is estimated to have increased from 5,332 MCM to 16,347 MCM during the period, the report from the GIZ-funded Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, New Delhi, said.

Bhitarkanika might run out of fresh water

He said that the intensification of upstream economic activities, especially mining and industrial activities in the Brahmani Basin and the number of multi-purpose hydropower plants, irrigation dams and upcoming water projects along the rivers are likely to harm the biodiversity of the region.

The project analyzed the flow data from the gauging stations from 2002-03 to 2011-12 and also estimated the availability of fresh water at the boundary of the Bhitarkanika sanctuary during the monsoon and non-monsoon seasons. A total volume of 23,551 MCM of water enters the sanctuary boundaries in one year, of which 19,924 MCM (85 pc) and 3,625 MCM (15 pc) occur during monsoon and non-monsoon respectively). He calculated that the sanctuary needs 8,561 MCM of water each year for its livelihood.

The report states that there may not be a significant change in future overall water availability due to the increase in population, although it may be slightly affected by rainfall due to the change. climate. A 10 percent reduction in rainfall would reduce the water supply by 6 percent.

However, development uses will severely affect the sanctuary ecosystem with reduced inflow from the Brahmani River as maximum development activities need to be carried out in the basin.

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