Balugaon: The Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, is slowly inching towards extinction due to heavy siltation, a report said Monday.
The lake which spreads over Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts is slowly getting filled up due to siltation with the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) failing to maintain it.
The people here said both the Centre and the state are providing several crores for the development of the lake, but the CDA has failed to use the funds properly.
It is feared that if the government does not intervene fast, the day is not far off when the lake will get removed from the world tourism map.
The lake is the largest winter ground for migratory birds from the Indian sub-continent and Europe, and is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals. Thousands of tourists visit the lake in winter for bird watching and to enjoy the beauty of the lake. However, the lake’s area is shrinking and it is losing its beauty.
Environmentalists said the lake originally covered 2,000 sq. km, but it has now shrunk to 1,165 sq. km due to the heavy growth of weeds and flow of soil from rivers and waste dumping.
Fishermen said that the lake is home to over 225 species of fish, prawns and crabs, but the fish catch has declined now as the lake is getting filled up. Things have come to such a pass that tourists move around the lake covering their noses due to the stink emanating from the waste dumped.
Local fishermen said the lake is an ecosystem with large fishery resources and sustains around three lakh fishermen living in villages on the shore and on islands in Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts. However, the fish catch has dwindled now as the lake is getting filled up.
This has left fishermen worried and they held the CDA and the administration responsible for the situation.
They said the CDA entrusted with the task of conservation of the lake’s ecology and to bring all-round development in and around it through multi-dimensional and multidisciplinary activities is lagging behind.
The lake is slowly getting filled up as floodwaters, soil and waste flow into it during the rainy season from over 30 rivers like Salia, Malaguni, Kansari, Daya and Bhargavi as well as the Khainga creek.
The growth of weeds like the ‘Nala’ grass, ‘Rajadala’ and bamboo grass in the lake is destroying its beauty and preventing fishermen from fishing. As a result, many fishermen are giving up their traditional occupation and migrating to other states.
Environmentalists, fishermen and intellectuals have asked the state government to intervene and take urgent action for reviving the lake before the monsoon.
When contacted, Samrat Goud, additional executive officer of CDA, said steps have been taken to clean the area around the lake. A de-siltation drive has been undertaken in the rivers and canals connected to the lake and works to revive the lake will be taken up in phases, he added.