Odisha officials advise against seaplane service in Chilika lake over ecological concerns
Officials in charge of conservation of Odisha’s Chilika, Asia’s largest brackishwater lake, have advised against starting the proposed sea plane facility there, citing the legal restrictions and the economic and ecological problems it would cause.
In June, the Airports Authority of India announced plans of starting water aerodromes and amphibious aircraft operation in Chilika lake and Sabarmati river of Gujarat.
In a letter to the state government, Chilika Development Authority’s chief executive Sushanta Nanda said that the provisions of the Wetland Conservation and Managent Rules, 2017 prohibit conversion for non-wetland uses. Chilika lake is a designated wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The proposal would also harm the livelihood of the local population, he said.
Nanda said the lake yields around 14000 tonnes of fish every year providing livelihood to 2 lakh fishermen from 158 primary fishing cooperative societies. The sound and vibration during take-off and landing is likely to adversely affect the breeding of the prized M Cephalus prawn, he added.
“The Irrawady dolphins are highly sensitive to sound and their breeding may suffer due to high decibel sound due to the seaplanes. Besides, the operational and airworthiness requirements for seaplane operation issued by the DGCA (directorate general of civil aviation) stipulates that the floating platform will not be selected in fishing grounds due to bird hazards. With one million birds congregating in the lake, there will be serous bird hazards for the operation of the sea planes as they (birds) are likely to be sucked to their engines, threatening the life of the passengers,” he wrote in his letter.
The issue has taken political overtones after senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressed his optimism that the project would soon come about, but came under attack from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders.
BJD MLA Sanjay Das Burma said Chilika is a rare place in the world in terms of its virtue of ecological diversity. “The proposed plan can pose a threat to the ecology of the areas and such a plan should be withdrawn at the earliest citing,” he said. Another BJD MLA Rajendra Sahu said since more than 250 types of migratory birds fly to Chilika in winters, the sea plane facility can potentially harm this.
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