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Chilka Lake: Largest Brackish Water Lake in Asia

Chilika lake, located in Odisha, is Asia’s largest brackish water lake having an estuary nature. This saline lake stretches over the Odisha districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam. It is the wintering ground of the birds in the Indian subcontinent. According to the Chilika lake waterbird status survey-2022, over 11 lakh waterbird and wetland-dependent species visited the lake.

Recently the Odisha government has recommended banning the movement of motorised fishing boats along the banks of Chilika Lake in Mangalajodi. In this article, we will discuss some facts about Chilka lake, which will be relevant for the aspirants preparing for various government exams.

Key facts about Chilka Lake

A lagoon is a body of shallow water isolated from a larger body of water by a narrow landform, such as reefs, barrier islands, barrier peninsulas, or isthmuses. After the New Caledonian barrier reef, Chilka lake is Asia’s biggest and the world’s second-largest brackish water lagoon. Following are some key facts about the Chilka lake relevant for exams:

  • Physical features
    • Distributed in the Odisha districts of Ganjam, Puri and Khurda, Chilika is 64 kilometres long from north to south and 13.5 kilometres broad from east to west. It covers an area of nearly 1,100 km² and is located at the mouth of the Daya River, which flows into the Bay of Bengal.
  • Attraction
    • In 1987, Nalabana Island (Forest of Reeds) in the lagoon region was designated as a bird sanctuary.
    • Irrawaddy dolphins are frequently seen off Satapada Island.
    • Kalijai Temple is located on an island in Chilika Lake.
  • International recognition
    • Chilika Lake was recognised as the first Indian wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention in 1981.
    • It is a Ramsar site as well as listed in the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Migratory birds species
    • The large mud field and the rich fish population here are ideal for bird congregations.
    • Chilika Lake attracts birds migrating from the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, the Aral Sea, distant regions of Russia, Mongolia’s Kirghiz steppes, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas.
    • Several migratory animals and birds make India their temporary home. Amur Falcons, Bar-headed Geese, Black-necked cranes, Marine turtles, Dugongs, and Humpback Whales are among the most significant of them.
    • As a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species, India has also created a National Action Plan for the protection of migratory species throughout the Central Asian Flyway (CMS).
  • Latest research
    • According to research conducted by the marine archaeology section of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, the Chilika Lake in Odisha was formerly part of the Bay of Bengal.
    • According to the research, the development of the Chilika might have started some 20,000 years ago, towards the end of the Pleistocene period.
    • The peninsular river Mahanadi in India carried a large amount of sediment and discharged some of it into its delta.
    • Sand bars formed at the river’s mouth as the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal.
    • This resulted in a backflow of seawater into the slow freshwater near the estuary, creating the massive brackish water lake.
  • Threats faced

 The following are the threats faced by the ecosystem:

  • Shrinkage of water surface area.
  • Siltation due to littoral drift and sediments from the inland river systems.
  • The proliferation of freshwater invasive species.
  • Choking of the inlet channel as well as shifting of the mouth connecting to the sea.
  • Salinity and fisheries resources are declining.
  • Fights over fishing rights in the lake between fishermen and non-fishermen populations, followed by court cases.
  • An overall loss of biodiversity, along with a fall in production, has a negative impact on the livelihood of the community that relies on it.
  • Eco-tourism
    • The lake’s open-air and picturesque natural flora and animals are appealing to eco-tourists. This is aimed to design some alternative jobs for the local population as well as raise environmental awareness among local residents and visitors about the protection and judicious use of the lake’s natural resources. The following lake areas have been found to be popular tourist sites:
      • The Goddess Kalijai is said to reside in the Kalijai Temple, which is located on an island. This temple is situated on a hill surrounded by blue water bears. Chilika residents refer to the goddess as the lagoon’s presiding deity.
      • Birds’ island, located in the lake’s southern section, features massive exposed hanging rocks that are painted white owing to folic acid in bird droppings and is notable for rich algae communities, a few mangrove species, and migrating birds in the winter.
      • Satapada village, located near the lake’s new mouth, offers views of both the lake and the dolphins. Hundreds of boats here provide tours for tourists visiting the lake.
      • Parikud is a collection of composite islands in the Garh Krishnaprasad Block that attracts birdwatchers throughout the winter season.

The very productive Chilika lagoon ecosystem, with its abundant fisheries resources, provides a living for many fishermen who reside in and around the lagoon. Microalgae, marine seaweeds, seagrasses, fish, and crabs thrive in the Chilika lagoon’s brackish water. The recent rebound of seagrass beds, in particular, is a positive trend that may eventually result in the re-colonisation of endangered dugongs.

Topics like these are critical for competitive exams like the UPSC, SSC, and even bank exams. Any such theme that appears in current affairs should be thoroughly prepared in order to outperform other candidates in the exams.

A comprehensive awareness of current events might help candidates eliminate incorrect selections in the UPSC Civil Service Preliminary Examination. Furthermore, topics from newspapers can be used in essays to assist applicants in improving their scores.

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