Sea turtles have been nesting at Gahirmatha on the Orissa coast of India for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. But if we don't act now, we could see this change within a decade – an eye blink in geological timescales.
A new port being built at Dhamra, near Gahirmatha, will push the endangered olive ridley sea turtle closer to the slippery edge of extinction. The main threat to the turtles is posed by dredging to make a channel deep enough for large ships to anchor.
The port is the brainchild of the Tata Corporation, one of India's most powerful and respected companies . Already the owners of brands like Jaguar, Land Rover and Corus, on Monday they plan to launch the Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car. Tata is well aware of the threat to the turtles, and has said in the past that it would shelve the project if presented with scientific proof of the ecological importance of the area.
In 2007, a study commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted by well known herpetologist Dr S.K. Dutta discovered species on the port site itself which had never before been recorded in Orissa or even from mainland India, highlighting the ecological significance of this region beyond just turtles. The study also threw up over 2,000 turtle carcasses in the port area.
In September 2008, after heightened protests and nearly 100,000 dedicated Greenpeace cyberactivists calling on the company to relocate the port, Tata agreed to a dialogue with those opposing the Dhamra port. In the ensuing negotiations, Tata agreed 'in principle' to an independent assessment, yet it continues to build the port.
The 2007-2008 turtle season saw no mass nesting at Gahirmatha, so the turtles' future looks bleak unless something changes. Which is why Greenpeace and other groups have been calling on Tata for over a year to halt construction and commission an independent assessment. But still the work continues.
Please help by calling, emailing or faxing Tata Corporation and asking them to think again. You could start by reminding them that when Greenpeace India polled their own customers, 98 per cent agreed that Tata should stop building the port.