Kendrapara (Odisha), May 25 (PTI) After it was known that Cyclone Yaas will hit Bhitarkania National Park in Kendrapara district close to Dhamra port in Odisha, local people exude optimism that the rich mangrove forest cover along the wetland sites of the park would again turn into a saviour for them.
Though the cyclonic storm is likely to make landfall on Wednesday, rain has started in the national park area since Tuesday morning and people are experiencing gusty wind.
'Everybody here is confined indoors either in homes or cyclone shelters. The forest cover around had protected us with minimal damage in past cyclones. We pray forest withstands the onslaught this time also,' said Ganesh Chandra Gudia who lives in Talchua village beside the park.
The national park had withstood the onslaught of cyclone Amphan that had barrelled through coastal Odisha in May last year.
'The coastal woodland has the capacity to withstand wind speed up to 20 kilometre per hour. We are scared but hopeful that nature will arrest the stormy onslaught,' Nrusingha Behera, a resident of Nalitapatia village said.
The luxuriant mangrove cover often acts as a protective barrier against cyclone and tidal surge.
'Mangrove forests with its intricate root system stabilise the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides,' said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bikash Ranjan Dash.
The flora and fauna of the park were unharmed due to cyclone Amphan cyclone last year, the DFO said, adding that the villages on the close periphery of the national park were also saved as the mangrove cover acted as a buffer zone in protecting human settlements.
Bhitarkanika is a rich storehouse of mangrove genes.
Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species, which were at elevated threat of extinction in the world, in the national park.
Odisha is endowed with a reserve of a mangrove forest area of 231 square kilometer with a major chunk lying in Bhitarkanika. It stands second only to Sundarbans in West Bengal.
Besides Bhitarkanika in Kendrapara, the districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Puri are also home to mangrove, otherwise known as coastal woodland. PTI COR AAM NN NN