Dolphins: Harbingers of Chilka’s rejuvenation

The presence of shy Irrawaddy Dolphins is a symbol that all is well with the Chilika lagoon. A recently concluded census shows that dolphin numbers are up to 158 from 146.

Dolphins in Chilika Lake

The picture is very different from 2002 when there were only 80 dolphins and 9 were killed after being hit by boat propellers.

The credit for the turn around goes to the awareness campaign by the Chilika Development authority to protect the dolphin and conserve the lagoon.

Tourist numbers in the area have also increased. One of the tourists finds dolphins the greatest attraction in Chilika, and he comes back each year to watch them.

Until 3 years ago hundreds of local fishermen who live close to the sea mouth had turned migrant labourer after their fish catch fell very sharply. But not any longer as dolphins have given them a reason to celebrate.

“Eco-tourism has come as a huge blessing and revived our economy. We worship the birds, dolphins and the lake for taking care of our prosperity,” said Hiranya Jena, Sipakuda.

Like the tiger in the forest it’s the Dolphin which is at the apex of the food chain here and the fact that their number is rising indicates a definite improvement in the eco-health of the Chilika lagoon.

The sprawling 1000 sq km Chilika lagoon was a dying wetland until 10 years ago but it was Chilika Development Agency’s decision to open this artificial new sea mouth, the Ram Bharatia Channel, which has made a huge difference to the wetland and given it fresh lease of life .

Ajit K Patnaik, Chief Executive, Chilika Development Agency said that it’s a win win situation for both conservationists and local people. He added that many indicators of the growing health like dolphins, shore birds and sea grass and tourism as an alternative livelihood has reduced pressures on the lake fishery.

While there are plenty of reasons to cheer about a rejuvenated Chilika, there is also a great need to regulate and monitor human activities and interventions.



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