Officials of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) have decided to switch off bright lights at the missile testing centre at Abdul Kalam island near Nasi 1 and Nasi 2 islands within Gahiramatha marine sanctuary to facilitate smooth arrival of Olive Ridley sea turtles to lay eggs.
A large number of sea turtles have already congregated in sea water near Nasi-1 and Nasi- 2 islands within Gahiramatha, said range officer of the marine sanctuary Debashis Bhoi. Artificial lighting on the missile testing range near Gahiramatha beach disorients adult female turtles in ways that can be deadly.
"The DRDO has responded positively towards turtle conservation measures and assured us not to illuminate the Abdul Kalam island (previously known as Wheeler Island) to ensure the safe arrival of turtles," he said.
Odisha is home to 50 per cent of total number of Olive Ridley sea turtles. The Government has developed minimum infrastructure like proper road, communication, small huts and tents near the turtle nesting site at Rushikulya river mouth area, another major nesting ground of the endangered Olive Ridleys. Gahiramatha marine sanctuary is the world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles.
But, Gahiramatha beach is a restricted area due to its proximity to the missile test centre of DRDO. Officials of Paradip Port Trust (PPT) and Dhamara port have also been directed not to use powerful lights as lakhs of turtles have already arrived on the sea and they are now mating, said the forest officer.
A few years back, International Union for Conservation of Nature had helped Dhamara port instal turtle-friendly light systems at the port site for allowing turtles to nest at Nasi-1 and Nasi 2 islands within Gahiramatha beach. These lights have no mercury vapour and only sodium vapour lamps have been installed. All lights have been directed downwards.