- Several environmental activists and political parties are opposing the proposed water aerodrome project in Chilika Lake.
Background: About the project
- Recently, the Civil Aviation Ministry gave an in-principle approval to the pilot projects of construction of water aerodromes in five states.
- The move is aimed at promoting tourism and to connect places of religious importance.
- The project includes commercial operation of low-cost single-engine seaplane services for which aerodromes are to be constructed.
- A water aerodrome is a water body that complies with certain minimum requirements for landing an aircraft.
- The five states identified include Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.
- In the first phase, the ministry identified Chilka Lake, Sabarmati River Front and Sardar Sarovar Dam.
- Chilika is a shallow brackish water lagoon located along the east coast of India in Odisha, separated from Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge.
- It is the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia spread over 1100 sq km.
- It is an ecological hotspot.
- The lake supports over 225 birds, 260 fish apart from 37 reptile and amphibian and 18 mammal species.
- Chilika is designated a Ramsar Site for wetland conservation.
- Chilika Bird Sanctuary is present in Nalabana Island.
- It is one of the largest wintering grounds in India for migratory birds.
- Around 9 lakh birds migrate to Chilika during winters from the Himalayas, Caspian Sea, remote parts of Russia, Mongolia and certain regions of Asia.
- It is a prime breeding site for many bird species.
- Chilika Lake is home to highest number of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in India
- Besides, it is home to many other rare, threatened and endangered species, including the Barakudia limbless skink.
Reasons for opposition
- Since Chilika is ecologically too fragile, it should be protected as a natural habitat.
- Oil spills, emissions, noise pollution etc. due to operation of aircraft will negatively impact the ecology and biodiversity of Chilika.
- The sound pollution generated by aircraft during landing and take-off will dissuade migratory birds from coming and affect endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
- Since it is a major spawning ground for aquatic species, the project could affect the livelihood of 2 lakh fishermen in the area.
- Since Chilika is already well-connected by road communication, seaplanes having limited passenger carrying capacity may not add significantly to tourism.
- Chilika Development Authority was apparently not consulted while carrying out feasibility study for the project.