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Odisha: Chilika development body opposes water aerodrome project

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Bhubaneswar:  Claiming the Central government’s proposed water aerodrome project in Chilika lake in Odisha will severely affect its biodiversity and have negative impact on the livelihood of thousands of families depending on it, the lake authorities today opposed the project.

The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) wrote a letter to the State government in this regard explaining reasons how the sea plane project can cause irrevocable damage to the ecosystem.

The CDA also stated that the lake is well-connected by road, rail and air from Bhubaneswar.

The lake authorities pointed out the following impacts of the sea plane operations in Chilika lake:

  1. The bird congregation during winter season is nearly one million and almost the entire area of the lake is used as habitat by the birds, particularly shallow regions of the wetland. The lake houses 230 bird species out of which 97 are intercontinental migrants coming from Artic and Euroasian region. The most common among them are the ducks and geese along 9 threatened bird species.

The birds migrate along the central Asian flyway. With sea planes playing in the region, these migratory paths and their habitat inside the lake are going to be seriously jeopardize from the movement and sound that the sea plane is likely to generate. The most enchanting feature of Chilika for the tourists because of its fascinating aquafina, might be lost forever.

2. Congregation of birds helps in recycling the nutrients back into the system through guano deposits. Ducks and geese add 33.8 t of nitrogen and 10.5 t of phosphorous (in the form of guano) to the lake which helps in high bion-mass production of macrophytes and lucrative fisheries in Chilika. Foraging by water birds helps in thinning the lake vegetation and enables free movement of fish. With anticipated decrease in number of birds due to operation of sea plane as outlined at (a) above, there will be less deposit of guano and is likely to seriously impact the bio-mass production and consequently the fish yield output in the lake. This will likely throw the livelihoods of 2 lakhs fishermen into darkness.

3. Irrawaddy dolphin is the flagship species inhabiting Chilika. It is one of the only two known lagoons in the world that supports Irrawaddy dolphin population and at present has the distinction of having the largest population in the world of this threatened species. The entire tourism in Satapada and Central sector of the lake are dependent on the endangered 157 dolphins now seen in all parts. The population of Irrawaddy dolphins has shown an increasing trend over the years. The dolphins are highly sensitive to the sound and their breeding suffers due to high decibel sound impact of sea plane during landing and the noise that is likely to emit while take off will endanger the population of this flagship species and sound death knell for the tourism industry. Consequently, livelihood of nearly 5000 families dependent on tourism will be thrown out of gear.

4. The lake yields around 14000 metric ton of fish every year providing livelihood to 2 lakhs fishermen organised Into 158 primary fishing cooperative society, the pride of the catch being prawn and M Cephalus. Since the migratory route of M Cephalus is throughout the lake it will be obstructed due to construction of water aerodrome at any part and is also likely to obstruct the movement of juveniles too. The sound and the vibration during take off and landing is likely to adversely affect the breeding of fish and yield may drastically reduce impacting the livelihood of the fisher community dependent on it.

5. The legal provisions under Wetland Conservation and Management Rule, 2017 applicable to this Ramsar site, vide section 4 (2) (i) prohibits conservation for non wetland uses. Construction of aerodrome is therefore prohibited under the said rules. Section 8.3 of Operational and Airworthiness Requirements For Seaplane Operation issued by Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation, Government of India vide its letter dated 17 June, 2008 stipulates that the floating platform will not be selected in fishing grounds and bird hazards will be taken into consideration. With one million birds congregating in the Lake, there will be serious bird hazards for the operation of the sea plane, threatening the life of the passengers.

The lake spread over Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of the state.

Earlier, the ruling BJD also opposed the sea plane project, terming it as a “destructive” idea. “We are opposed to such a proposal. We’ll draw the chief minister’s attention towards such destructive idea,” BJD leader and state Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty, who hails from Puri district, had told media earlier.

Last month, the proposed amphibian airport project in Chilika lake got in-principle nod from the Central government. Under the project of the Civil Aviation Ministry, water aerodromes are to be constructed in Chilika lake in Odisha, Sabarmati riverfront and Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat in the first phase, with an aim to promote tourism.