Hundreds of vulnerable Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) have washed ashore along the coastline between Kakinada and Antarvedi in the Godavari region during the ongoing annual breeding season on the east coast. The breeding grounds – Sakhinetipalli, Malikipuram, Mamidikuduru and Allavaram – have been witnessing the mass mortality of the turtles over the past few weeks.

The effluents being released from the aqua ponds along the coastline and the discharges from the pipelines of the onshore oil exploration facilities are also blamed for the mass mortality of the turtles. Since early January, a group of locals have photographed as many as 70 Olive Ridley turtles which have been found dead in their breeding grounds between Kakinada and Antarvedi.

Legal battle

Environmental activist Venkatipathiraja Yenumala, in a complaint to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the AP Forest Department and the Pollution Control Board, said, “There is mass mortality of Olive Ridley turtles in the Mandals of Sakhinetipalli, Malikipuram, Mamidikuduru and Allavaram in the Konaseema region, where treated water is being discharged into the sea through pipelines by the oil exploration units including ONGC facilities.”

In 2021, Mr. Venkatipathiraja waged a legal battle against the marine and groundwater pollution in the Konaseema region in the National Green Tribunal. “The waste water from the aqua ponds is also being released into the sea and it is suspected to be one of the reasons for the mortality of turtles,” Mr. Venkatipathiraja told The Hindu.

Responding on the issue, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Konaseema District Forest Officer M.V. Prasada Rao said, “We have launched a probe into the mortality of Olive Ridley turtles in our district. A report is expected to be prepared on the reasons for the mortality.” On the other hand, the Forest Department has set up rookeries at Vakalatippa, S. Yanam, Gacchakayalapora and Sacremento Island. By January 24 (Tuesday), as many as 2,352 eggs have been collected for conservation and safe breeding through the ex-situ conservation method at the four rookeries.