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‘Overfishing, pollution degrading Chilika’

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Reported by Sandeep Pattnaik

Bhubaneswar, Dec 19:

Overfishing, pollution, sedimentation and improper tourism have led to rapid degradation of Chilika Lake, a ‘Ecosystem Health Report Card’ released on Thursday said.chilika-fishing shot

The first-of-its-kind annual report was released during a workshop on “Ecosystem Health Report Card- Policy Formulation” here.

Chilika Lake is subjected to constant pressures from both natural processes and human activities, the report said. Besides, the Health Report Card found over-enrichment of the nutrient / fertiliser content generating from agriculture in the water of Chilika Lake.

The report card, developed by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was released by minister for Forest and Environment Bijayshree Routray.

The CDA has signed a Small Scale Funding Agreement (SSFA) with the UNEP, to carry out the work on “development of an ecosystem health report card” and to apply this for the management of the Chilika Lake with technical inputs from the Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai and National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), India.Chilika Fish Catch

The objective of the report card is to enhance understanding and management of the Chilika lake ecosystem through a collaborative project on “Global foundations for reducing nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion from land based pollution, in support of Global Nutrient Cycle”, which is a transparent and simple method of science communication to a wider audience on the health of Chilika Lake.

It takes into account 10 indicators organized into three main indices like ‘Water quality’, ‘Fisheries’ and ‘Biodiversity’ to measure the ecosystem health of Chilika Lake and found overfishing and illegal aquaculture, pollution, and sedimentation as the major threats.

Quantitative assessment of the health of the lake was done based on water clarity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, total catch, commercial fish species diversity, bird count and richness, dolphin abundance, benthic faunal diversity and phytoplankton diversity.

Scores were given to each indicator based on the threshold values which was then combined for both physical and biological indices to calculate health report card grades.

“In spite of several anthropogenic pressures on Chilika Ecosystem, the health card gives an overall score ‘B’, which is excellent. This indicates the eco-system of Chilika Lake is functioning well. But a lot need to be addressed,” Chief Executive, CDA, Dr Ajit Kumar Pattnaik told OST.

“The present workshop has been organized to elicit the policy formulation and management actions as warranted from the inputs of the health report card for its implementation in the lake management initiatives,” Pattnaik added.

The workshop was attended by wetland managers of major wetlands of the country, policy makers, scientists, experts and research personnel of National and Regional institutes.