Cyclone Fani: Damage to the environment 

Cyclone Fani caused distress not only to the people but the flora and fauna of Odisha, millions of trees have been damaged and wildlife sanctuary and biodiversity parks have also been affected

Cyclone Fani: Damage to the environment 

Sandeep Sahu

If the extent of damage to physical infrastructure caused by Cyclone ‘Fani’ has been massive, environment too was dealt a body blow . “Over two and a half million trees have been either completely uprooted or damaged, over five lakh of them in Bhubaneswar alone,” says Sandeep Tripathy, the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF).

With the green cover gone almost completely, pedestrians don’t have any shade left to escape from the harsh May sun and extreme humidity. “It is heart breaking to see so many trees, many of them over 50 years old, lying on the ground,” says a resident of Bhubaneswar. Already a hot city, Bhubaneswar is going to become even hotter in future now that all the greenery is gone, fear environmentalists.

The Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia, and the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary have suffered serious damage in the cyclone. Much of the green cover in and around the lake is now gone. Mercifully though, fears of an increase in the salinity of the water, which would have caused serious imbalances in the biodiversity of the ecologically sensitive lake, have proved misplaced.

“Salinity of Chilika lake did go up to worrying levels in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone. But I am happy to tell you it came down after three, four days and has now stabilised at the usual level of 14-17 PPM,” says Sushanta Nanda, the head of Chilika Development Authority (CDA). There have been no reports of any death of the rare Irrawady dolphins that Chilika is famous for, he informs.

Officials at the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary on the PuriKonark marine drive, famous for its large population of deer, got the scare of their life when not one of them were found in the area in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone. It took an intense search which involved the use of drone cameras for three days before the officials heaved a huge sigh of relief when they spotted the first batch of about 25 deer. They are now coming back to their abode in groups. “They had obviously gone away to a safer place after the trees started falling,” says a sanctuary official. But with the green canopy gone, it would be a long time before they get their old habitat back.

The animals and birds at the biological park at Nandan Kanan on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar city, a major tourist attraction, too were lucky to survive the cyclone. But some of the enclosures for animals were damaged and a large number of trees, including many medicinal plants at the botanical garden that is part of the complex, were lost forever.

“Luckily, there were no animal deaths in the zoo due to the cyclone. But we suffered a loss of around Rs 4.5 crore. But we are happy that we are now ready to receive tourists after so long,” zoo official Ajay Mohanty said as it reopened for the public on May 21.

The nearby Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, however, suffered massive damage in the cyclone. Nearly one lakh trees were uprooted in the cyclone, as per a forest department preliminary assessment

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