Mangrove Wetlands of Orissa

Orissa state has mangroves in about 24300 ha. The Bhitarkanika mangroves, which is the major mangrove wetland of Orissa, occupies an area of about 15000 ha and declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Among the Indian mangroves the highest diversity of mangrove plants occurs in the Bhitarkanika and hence, it has been identified as one of the important mangrove genetic resource centres of the world.  The extent of major and minor mangrove forests of Orissa is given bellow

. Selvam.,T. Ravishankar.,V.M. Karunagaran.,R. Ramasubramanian.,P. Eganathan . and A. K. Parida. 2005.
Toolkit for establishing Coastal Bioshield’, pp 117.

Table Major and minor mangrove wetlands of Orissa


Forested Area (ha)

Mouth of River Devi






Mouth of River Dhamara


Mouth of River Budha Balanga






Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests of Orissa

They occur in the drier central and western areas in parts of Bolangir, Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Khariar, Deogarh and Gobindpur divisions. Teak instead of Sal, Salia bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus) instead of Daba bamboo, predominates in these forests.

Phyto-sociological study was carried out in tropical dry deciduous forest of Boudh district, Eastern Ghats of Orissa, South Bolanda, Talcher, Orissa, India. The species includes Trema orientalis, Haldina cordifolia, Diospyros melanoxylon, Ixora arborea, Tamarindus indica, Chromolaena odorata, Calotropis gigantea, Woodfordia fruticosa, casearia elliptica, Phyllanthus reticulatus, Croton bonplandianus, Catharanthus roseus, Hyptis suaveolens, Solanum xanthocarpum and Tridax procumbens. Stem and leaf parts of the trees and shrubs, and whole plant of the herbs were analysed.

Concentrations of metals were the maximum in leafy part of trees and shrub samples India. An inventory of 187 species (trees 91, shrubs 10, climbers 12 and herbs 74) within a four hectare area were made.
The predominant tree species include:
Shorea robusta

Madhuca indica

Buchanania lanzan

Cleistanthus collinus
Diospyros melanoxylon

Located on the coastal plain of the Indian state of Orissa, the Orissa semi-evergreen forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest eco-region of eastern India. The total area of the eco-region is 22,300 km2 and is bounded on the north and west by the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests. The Bay of Bengal is bounding the eco-region on the south and west. These Orissa semi-evergreen forests in India are neither exceptionally species-rich nor are high in endemism. However, they do harbour several charismatic large vertebrates of the Indian Subcontinent bioregion. The most important species found in these forests include the Tiger that is considered as the region`s largest predator, and also the Asian Elephant. Apart from that, large herds of Gaur, and one of the most dangerous mammals in the region, the Sloth Bear are also found in these forests.

Positioned on the low hills in the northeastern Indian state of Orissa, the Orissa semi-evergreen forests are vulnerable to the full force of the southwestern monsoon winds that sweep in from the Bay of Bengal. Due to the rainfall from this monsoon and the ameliorating year-round oceanic influences, moister climatic conditions are created here. As a result, the Orissa semi-evergreen forests in India have the original extent of distinctly moister semi-evergreen forests that once existed to the east of the Eastern Ghats Mountains. The ecoregion has an ancient geological lineage of Gondwanaland origins and for this reason; it still harbours relicts of an ancient biota.

The Orissa semi-evergreen forests in India have patches of several habitat types like the canebrakes, wet bamboo brakes, moist bamboo brakes, lateritic semi-evergreen forests, and secondary moist bamboo brakes. However, most of these habitat types are sometimes not identifiable in the field because of excessive deforestation and changes in land-use practices. The natural vegetation in the forests mainly includes five series like the Shorea-Buchanania-Cleistanthus, Shorea-Cleistanthus-Croton, Shorea-Terminalia-Adina, Shorea-Syzygium operculatum-Toona, and the Shorea-Dillenia-Pterospermum.

The Orissa semi-evergreen forests in India are also quite rich in its biotic community. The most common flora species in the upper story of these forests include the
Artocarpus lakoocha, Michelia champaca, Celtis tetrandra, Bridelia tomentosa, B. verrucosa, Dillenia pentagyna, Saraca indica, Ficus spp., Mangifera indica, and Firmiana colorata, etc. The second story of the forests is characterized by the species like Aphanamixis polystachya, Mesua ferrea, Phoebe lanceolata, Polyalthia spp., Macaranga peltata, Glochidion spp., and Litsea nitida, etc. There is also an understory of evergreen shrubs, canes, and herbs present in these forests. The forests situated in the hilly areas, which have lateritic soils (the residual product of rock decay), house the species like Xylia xylocarpa, Pterocarpus marsupium, Anogeissus latifolia, Grewia tiliaefolia, Terminalia tomentosa, and Terminalia bellirica
, etc.
The total number of mammal species found in the Orissa semi-evergreen forests in India is fifty-nine and none of them is considered as endemic. However, there are a number of threatened species found in the forests that need urgent conservation attention. These species include the Tiger, Asian Elephant, Gaur, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, and Chousingha. The forests located along the higher elevations may also provide dispersal habitat for Tigers and Leopards from Simlipal in the north to Andhra Pradesh to the south of Orissa.

Apart from the vegetation and mammal species, the Orissa semi-evergreen forests are quite rich in bird species, as well. The forests are home to a large number of more than 215 bird species and none of them are considered as endemic. However, there are a few globally threatened bird species inhabit in these forests and the species include the Lesser Florican. Some of the other birds that warrant conservation attention include the Oriental Darter, Greater Flamingo, and White-Bellied Sea Eagle.



Coastal Sand Dunes along the Orissa Coast

Severe cyclonic events are responsible for dramatic modifications of the landscape. The cyclone of October 1999 resulted in heavy sedimentation near the coast of Orissa the receding waters brought additional silt. Extreme events result in severe shoreline changes and hence affect coastline configuration: beach and dune erosion, modifications of dune complexes, dune breaching, overwash, inlet formation and, at places, complete elimination of sand-dune complexes is documented.

The Mahanadi delta has formed raised platform as a result of which sand dunes developed along the coast. These raised sand ridges brought changes in the drainage systems. Sand dunes are predominant in the following three sectors (Rao et al., 2008):

  • Brahmagiri–Puri Sector
  • Ersama–Ramnagar Sector and
  • Ghanteswar–Balasore–Kanthi Sector

The formation of the sand dunes can be seen between the Chilika and the Devi up to the north of Dhamra. A total of 102 species belonging to 46 genera of fungi were isolated from a coastal sandy belt of Orissa, India, over a period of 2 years, from 1989 to 1991 (Panda et al., 2006)

Casuarina Plantations in Orissa

  • Casuarina made inroads into coastal areas of Orissa after 1971. A severe cyclone devastated the Orissa coast in October 1971. After this cyclone, the coastal afforestation branch of the Orissa Forest Department started planting Casuarina along the Orissa coast. The objective of planting Casuarina was two-fold: to act as a barrier to cyclonic storm and to prevent beach erosion.
  • The coastal stretch particularly between the mouth of the Jatadhara River and the mouth of the Devi River has been recorded as a good sporadic nesting ground of the olive ridley turtle. Plantation of Casuarina close to the high tide line in this sector is having an adverse impact on sea turtle nesting in this area.
  • To reduce dependence on mangrove for fuel wood plantation of bamboo and coconut, predominantly, and other species such as acacia, neem, babool, eucalyptus, teak, sisso, casuarina, arecanut, on village common lands is necessary
  • Many of the people of Bandara village, of Jagatsinghpur district, Devi Mouth area, in Orissa reported a high level of dependence on mangrove resources for fuel wood till about 20 years back. Then forest lands adjacent to the village were developed with Casuarina plantations. Now the branches and twigs from these trees along with the needles swept from the forest floor are used together with cow-dung cakes and brushwood from homestead trees as fuel wood. The mangrove forests are not exploited for fuel wood. The Casuarina plantations are protected and used judiciously by the village people, even though they had difficulties in doing so, at the initial stages. Success of the protection initiative is cited by the village people as an example of their ability in managing natural resources that is important for their sustenance.
  • An artificial canal, the Palur Canal, connects Chilika Lake with the Bay of Bengal, through the Rushikluya river mouth and runs parallel to the nesting beach for about 8 kms. This canal is located to the west of the villages Gokhurkuda and Podampetta while it runs east of Purnabandha village. The northern part of the beach, has privately owned Casuarina plantations. Other flora, including creepers of Ipomea pescaprae, Calatropis gigantea and Spinifex littoreus grass help in binding the sand of the beach. The co-ordinates of the river mouth read as follows – 85o 4’ 3” E and 19o 22’ 30” N.
  • Plantation of casuarina and eucaplyptus for fencing, use as fuel wood and for house construction, on homestead lands; and jatropha as live fencing, which can also be a source of income
  • Casuarina plantations of 1954 and 1971 at Gahirmatha collapsed under the force of winds during the super cyclone of October 1999, as frontal trees did not withstand heavy winds. Similarly, post-cyclone satellite images showed partial damage to coastal trees, including mangroves in Orissa.



Jatropha is a bush that grows wild in many places of the world. It is being touted as a potential solution to the search for new sources of energy. A genus of the plant family Euphorbiaceae; some plants contain unidentified purgatives and cause diarrhea. Includes J. curcas (physic or purging nut), J. gossypifolia (bellyache bush), J. stimulosa (spurge nettle); others cause cyanide poisoning, e.g. J. multifida (umbrella tree, coral bush).
Uses: some plants contain unidentified purgatives and cause diarrhea. Includes J. curcas (physic or purging nut), J. gossypifolia (bellyache bush), J. stimulosa (spurge nettle); others cause cyanide poisoning, e.g. J. multifida
(umbrella tree, coral bush).