The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) has drafted a report recommending the state government that the proposed water aerodrome over the lake will negatively impact the ecosystem and the surrounding human population, a report accessed by The Indian Express revealed.
Chilika, the second largest brackish water lake in the world, covers Khurda, Puri and Ganjam districts. Situated at the mouth of the Daya River, Chilika is rich in biodiversity and a major tourist attraction in the state.
Last month, The Indian Express reported that senior BJD leaders Brahmagiri MLA Sanjay Das Burma and Revenue Minister Maheshwar Mohanty opposed the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s proposal to set up a water aerodrome on the lake. The ministry also cleared Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front for similar projects in the first phase.
BJP had slammed BJD for opposing the Centre’s efforts to boost employment in the area. However, the saffron party’s own MLA Dilip Ray had supported the BJD.
CDA’s report states that the water aerodrome is not advisable because the “cost involved from operation of sea plane seems to far outweigh the benefits” and the project is also not “legally… feasible”. CDA Chief Executive Susanta Nanda and other officials were not available to confirm if the report had already been shared with the state government.
The movement and sound of seaplanes will “seriously jeopardize” the habitat of Chilika’s nearly one million avian visitors, which include 230 bird species and 97 migrants from the Arctic and Eurasian regions, the report states.
According to CDA, the birds are not only a major tourist attraction, but also help to recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem through “guano deposits”. Guano, the accumulated excrement of seabirds, is rich in nitrogen, phosphates and potassium- nutrients that spur the growth of vegetation.
When birds forage the water, the vegetation in it thins and enables free movement of fish. If the bird population shrinks, livelihood of about two lakh fishermen dependent on Chilika is at risk, the report warns.
The report also states that the sound of seaplanes will affect breeding and navigation of the Irrawady dolphins, which have highly sensitive hearing. Chilika has the largest number of such dolphins in the world and is also one of two lagoons in the world that shelter them, the report states.
The report also lists the legal reasons against the project. Chilika is governed by provisions under Wetlands Conservation and Management Rules 2017, which prohibit its conversion into non-wetland uses. The birds and fish are also likely to hit the planes and risk the lives of passengers, the report says.