Orissa, the maritime state along the east coast of India, has a coastline of 480 km. The southern part of the coast has a narrow shelf, but the north Orissa coast has an extended continental shelf. The coastline is bestowed with six major estuaries, India's second largest mangrove forest (Bhitarkanika Sanctuary), Asia's largest brackish water coastal lagoon (Chilika), extensive sandy beaches rich in heavy minerals, the world's largest rookery for the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Gahirmatha sandy beach within Bhitarkanika sanctuary), and two species of horseshoe crabs. In the last few decades there has been tremendous pressure on the coastal zone for the development of fisheries, aquaculture, ports, harbours, and urban settlements. These developments have led to environmental changes, some of which are irreversible, and thus have become issues of concern for the public as well as the state government. Some of the important environmental changes taking place, and which seriously affect the economy of the region, are tropical cyclones and associated storm surges, floods, decline in mangrove forests, accelerated shoreline changes, and transformation of the coastal lagoon ecosystem. This paper documents different coastal environmental features and their changes, observed during the last few decades through secondary data, field surveys, and remote sensing observations, and suggests a framework for a coastal zone management programme in the state.
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Vol. 24 • No. sp2