Govt grounds aerodrome on Chilika

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has cancelled the water aerodrome project at the Chilika lagoon following objections from the state government. It has also made clear its desire to develop the project in Odisha if the government provides it with an alternative site.

By Subhashish Mohanty
  • Published 10.09.18
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Chilika lake. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneswar: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has cancelled the water aerodrome project at the Chilika lagoon following objections from the state government. It has also made clear its desire to develop the project in Odisha if the government provides it with an alternative site.

AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said: "Following a request from the state government through videoconferencing to cancel the project as it would affect Chilika's ecology, we have cancelled the project."

Making it clear that the AAI wants development of the state, Mohapatra said: "If the state government gives any proposal to develop a water aerodrome in the state, we will provide them all help. However, they have to submit the proposal within three weeks."

In June, the AAI had announced to set up aerodrome projects in Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. Chilika in Odisha was the preferred site. The civil aviation ministry had given its nod to the Chilika proposal.

In a letter to chief secretary A.P. Padhi, the AAI chairman had said: "The Airports Authority of India plans to set up water aerodromes. For starting amphibious aircraft operation in Odisha, Bhubaneswar airport and Chilika lake have been shortlisted for a pre-feasibility study. The government will identify the site in Chilika." Odisha initially had not objected to the proposal. A team of experts from the Centre had visited the area and conducted a study. Subsequently, environmentalists and the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) raised objections .

In a letter to the state government, chief executive, CDA, Sushanta Nanda had said: "Operation of seaplane and water aerodrome at Chilika, the world's second largest brackish water lake, is likely to cause irrevocable damage to the ecosystem and livelihood of people dependent on it. The cost involved in the operation of seaplane seems to outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from it. Besides, legally the project is not feasible."

The operation of the aerodrome at any given location in the lake will have far reaching adverse consequences on its fragile ecosystem, the CDA maintained.

He had also said: "The legal provisions under Wetland Conservation and Management Rule, 2017, are applicable to the internationally acclaimed Chilika wetland site. The rules strictly prohibit its conversion for non-wetland use. Construction of aerodrome is therefore not legally permissible as Chilika is a wetland site."

The CDA maintained: "With one million birds congregating in the lake, the operation of seaplanes will be hazardous to winged species as they will either be sucked in the engines or be hit by the planes during its landing. The possibility of bird hit will also pose a threat to air travellers."

The lake is home to 230 bird species, of which 97 are intercontinental migrants from Arctic and Eurasian regions.

The CDA had cited that noise from the flights would distract the Irrawady dolphins, an endangered species found in the lake. BJD leader from Chilika area and Brahmagiri MLA Sanjay Das Burma and Khurda MLA Rajendra Sahu had objected to the proposal.