Green concern over lake tourism

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 7.02.07

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 7: The Orissa Tourism Development Corporation’s (OTDC) plan to develop the Chilika lake into a major tourist destination has caused concern in the green lobby due to possible threat to the Irrawaddy dolphins and migratory birds.

The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) today urged the central and state government to review the Chilika tourism project and drop the “harmful” components to protect the lake’s fragile eco-system and wildlife.

The Irrawaddy dolphins and migratory birds, the chief attractions at the lake, could “disappear if OTDC goes ahead with its ill-advised tourism plans”, warned Biswajit Mohanty, the WSO secretary.

Recently, a team of scientists from Japan and India expressed concern over the movement of mechanised boats in Chilika, which posed a threat to the dolphins.

OTDC plans to develop Chilika lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, into a tourism hub with a central grant of Rs. 5.56 crore.

Though the lake (in picture) is an eco-sensitive area and a Ramsar site, the corporation is yet to carry out an impact assessment study to gauge the likely adverse effects of the proposed activities, said Mohanty.

The corporation plans to buy fan-driven airboats for dolphin tours, something Mohanty fears will “disturb the aquatic mammals” because of their high speed and noise. Only country boats should be used for this purpose, he added.

The lake has around 120 dolphins and every year there are casualties due to collision with boats.

The breeding rate has also been affected due to uncontrolled tourism, claimed the wildlife activist.

Mohanty also expressed concern over a plan to feed dolphins. “This will endanger them as they will not leave the feeding area, thereby affecting their ecology and breeding habits.

“There is also a plan to illuminate the park at Satpada with powerful sodium vapour lamps. This is inadvisable as the lake is home to thousands of migratory birds and strong lights near the water will disorient and disturb them,” he said.

Mohanty disapproved of the idea to set up steel watchtowers around the Nalabana bird sanctuary. The watchtowers, he explained, will be corroded in a couple of years as the water is saline.

The chief executive officer of Chilika Development Authority, Sudarshan Panda, said the OTDC had not submitted a formal proposal on its tourism plans yet.