A wetland of international importance apart, about Rs 425 crore is what Chilika lagoon contributes to the State and local economy every year. The first-ever economic valuation of Chilika’s ecosystem has brought to the fore the interesting fact.
While tourism is the biggest contributor, fishery resources of the brackish water lagoon have a lion’s share in the economic services the wetland provides to the State.
Tourists, their inflow increasing at a healthy nine per cent rate, are the biggest money churners for
the lagoon. The first-ever Integrated Management Plan, prepared by Wetland International and Chilika Development Authority (CDA) reveals that economic value of tourism alone translates into Rs 233 crore per annum.
Using the Individual Travel Cost Method (ITCM), the assessment found that average consumer surplus for the domestic and international tourists was estimated at Rs 5,806 and Rs 120,480 respectively, based on the arrival records.
Since 1999, tourist inflow has registered an annual increase of nine per cent. Domestic tourists account for 99 per cent but the rate of growth of foreign tourists has almost doubled after 1999.
Tourism apart, fishery resources account for the next largest share in the economic value of Chilika. The market value of the Chilika fish is estimated at Rs 76 crore annually. The international markets account for 10.4 per cent of the total fish landing but contributes 22 per cent of the total value. A healthy 65 per cent of the catch goes beyond the local markets and landing centres.
The annual average harvest of fish is estimated at 11,961.37 metric tonne which supports livelihood of 1.4 lakh fisherfolk living in 152 villages around the lagoon. The number of active fishermen was estimated at 34,700 in 2007. Of the total fish landing, 24 per cent is sold in and around Chilika, 21 per cent in Odisha, 46.7 per cent exported to states outside Odisha and 7.79 per cent to international markets.
Fish landing apart, the ancillary industry based on Chilika’s fisheries is estimated at Rs 21 crore.
Interestingly, the aquatic vegetation the lagoon generates has tremendous market value: Surveys have said that local communities harvested 58,000 metric tonne aquatic vegetation which was used for making mat, roofing and thatch, packing material for transporting fish and crab. Its value was estimated at Rs 3.5 crore annually.
Since a large population lives around Chilika, water transport is a significant economic activity. The ferry service operational in Chilika through the Chilika Development Authority, yields close to Rs 10 lakh a year, while services - not directly linked to the lagoon - which people use has been assessed at Rs 85 crore.
This, the plan says, reflects only a small range of services delivered by Chilika.