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Water aerodrome plan in Chilika

File picture of the Chilika lake

Bhubaneswar: The Centre has proposed to set up a water aerodrome in the Chilika lagoon straddling three districts in an apparent bid to give a boost to tourism.

A team of experts visited the area last week to conduct the feasibility study.

The water aerodrome will come up in an area of open water to be used regularly by seaplanes or amphibious aircraft. SpiceJet has been short-listed for setting up the facility, the first of its kind in the state.

A highly-placed source in the state government, however, is sceptical about the move as it could adversely impact the fragile eco-system of the lake, a Ramsar site. "The state is likely to object to the proposal on two grounds. Chilika is known for attracting migratory birds. Around 10 to 12 lakh birds visit the area between October and March. Any such project could pose a serious threat to the movement of birds. There are also chances of bird hits to the aircraft. Any disturbance in the Chilika ecosystem will endanger the lives of the dolphins as well. The lake is now home to nearly 200 dolphins," the source told The Telegraph.

A top official involved in the planning process said: "We have even restricted the movement of boats in many areas of Chilika, including the Nalabana bird sanctuary. How can we justify the water aerodrome in the area? The proposal is also likely to meet with serious resistance from environment activists on valid grounds."

In a letter to chief secretary A.P. Padhi, Airports Authority of India chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said: "The Airports Authority of India plans to set up water aerodromes. For starting amphibious aircraft operation in Odisha, Bhubaneswar Airport and Chilika lake has been shortlisted for a pre-feasibility study. The site in Chilika is to be identified by state government."

CEO of Chilika Development Authority Sushant Nanda said: "A team of experts from the Centre has already visited area and conducted a study. As this is in the initial stages, I don't have much information. But any positive intervention in Chilika will boost tourism in the area and have a positive impact on the livelihood of the people living in the area."

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