• Police personnel patrolling in the forest carrying rifles on their shoulder and looking for smugglers may appear to be a fancy idea.
  • But for the forest department, an armed police patrol force is a much-needed last resort to ward off enemies of the mangroves.
  • The mangrove ecosystem plays a vital role in protecting the land against the ingress of sea water during a tidal surge.
  • It’s an invaluable eco-wall and so , and armed police have had to be roped in.
  • It’s been done, albeit rarely, in other parts of the country too.
  • In Kendrapara, powerful prawn mafias have for decades illegally occupied vast stretches of area after clearing mangrove forests.
  • Aquaculture is lucrative business: it gets very high returns, on minimal investment.
  • An investment of ₹1 lakh in an acre of land is all you need to get a fish catch worth ₹5 lakh in six months.
  • This is why there is always a race to clear mangroves and convert it into fish ponds.
  • Over the last decade, 1,930 hectares of forest in Mahakalapada forest range have been cleared of encroachment.
  • Over 400 hectares remain under illegal occupation.
  • Odisha has 220 sq. km. of mangrove forest spread across four coastal districts — Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak and Balasore.
  • The Mahakalapada forest is part of Bhitarkanika National Park, which is considered to have the most biodiverse mangrove vegetation in the world, second only to Papua New Guinea, with 64 species of flora recorded.
  • It happens to be India’s second largest mangrove forest after the Sundarbans.
  • The mangrove plays a vital role in protecting the coast as well as in sustaining the livelihood of local fishermen.
  • Wherever there is dense mangrove vegetation, the impact of cyclones is less.
  • For instance, the 1999 super cyclone had comparatively less impact in the Mahakalapada area of Kendrapara because the mangrove acted as a barrier.