Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • In April 1975, ex-zamindari forests of Kanika Raj were constituted and declared as Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary by State Government of Odisha. 
  • Later in 1998, it was declared as a National Park because of its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological and zoological association and importance and for the purpose of protection. In August 2002, it was designated as the second Ramsar site (i.e. Wetland of International importance).

Ramsar Site:
The area has also been designated as the second Ramsar site (i.e. Wetland of International importance) of the State during August, 2002. It is a unique area with huge biodiversity as it covers different ecosystems such as the landmass, tidal waterbodies of the deltaic region, estuaries and territorial waters of the Bay of Bengal along with their associated flora and fauna.

  • Biosphere Reserve (Proposed):
    The deltaic region formed by the alluvial deposits of river Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara (Bhitarkanika) and the Mahanadi deltaic area, comprising of about 3000 Sq. Km. forms the proposed Bhitarkanika Biosphere Reserve. This deltaic region is a unique bioclimatic zone in a typical geographic situation in the coastal region of Bay of Bengal. It is located in the Kendrapara District of the State of Odisha.
  • The proposed Bhitarkanika Biosphere Reserve covers erstwhile Kanika and Kujang Zamindari area. It includes at present three protected areas namely Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhitarkanika National Park and the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Mangrove Forest Division (MFD) of Bhitarkanika in first week of June 2015 revealed that Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary of Odisha is witnessing an alarming denudation in large tracts of mangrove vegetation. 
  • The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is one of India’s biggest estuarine crocodile habitats and a major coastal eco-system.
  • According to MFD, the denudation or saline blank formations have been noticed in Bhitarkanika forest block, which is measured at 1700 acre. It said that the denuded patches, spotted in Mathadia, could be over 30 acres in this block area. 
  • The denudation has been noted among the Avicennia and Excoecariaspecies, popularly known as Bani and Guan.

Reasons of Denudation:

The denudation (blank formations) of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is a cause of worry for following reasons:

  • As mangroves are just not a lifeline for the eco-system which is a home to a rich flora and fauna but it also acts as an environment cushion for the coastlines.
  • The excessive salinity creates a blank formation over a period of time as the existing vegetation dies.
  • Most mangrove species have a salinity resistance that ranges from 5 ppt to 35 ppt. Only Avicennia marina species can tolerate up to 70 ppt salinity.

Earlier, the Forest Survey of India-2013 report highlighted a drop in mangrove cover in the State by nine square km over 2011-from 222 sq km to 213 sq km. In Kendrapara district alone, where most of Bhitarkanika is located, the drop was by 4 sq km while in Bhadrak district, it was 2 sq km.

Salient features of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary

  • This ecosystem harbours the largest number of saltwater crocodile population in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Bhitarkanika’s famous Gahirmatha Coast finds a prominent place in the turtle map of the world because of the distinction of having one of world’s largest nesting and breeding congregation of Olive Ridley Sea turtles.