Chilika’s ecology hangs in balance as finance panel funds dry up  

A key annual exercise for CDA is dredging the mouths to facilitate flushing of silt drained into the 1,100 sq km lagoon from Mahanadi river system as well as fresh water streams.

Published: 04th August 2021 07:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2021 07:08 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR:  Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, is staring at an environmental crisis of sorts as funds from Centre, key to the critical wetland’s ecological balance and outreach programmes, have dried up. 

The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) which manages the Ramsar site has not received a single penny from Fourteenth and Fifteenth Finance Commissions despite furnishing a demand of Rs 630 crore. Provisioning of funds for CDA stopped since the Thirteenth Finance Commission during which the highest grant of Rs 50 crore was sanctioned.

A key annual exercise for CDA is dredging the mouths to facilitate flushing of silt drained into the 1,100 sq km lagoon from Mahanadi river system as well as fresh water streams. In last several years, CDA has managed to dredge just about 700 metre to 800 metre annually though it needs to clean up about three to four km regularly every year.

The lead channel from Magarmukh mouth towards Khurda has been silted up in absence of dredging which may impact the lagoon’s life and eco-system. Mechanical dredging is an expensive exercise.
Every year, about 3.4 million tonne silt is drained into Chilika and 60 per cent of the load comes from Mahanadi river system through Daya, Bhargavi, Luna and Makara rivers. Besides, 48 other streams also bring in silt load to the lake. With dredging of the mouths restricted, silt load could impact the lagoon’s character and the aquatic life it carries.

Similarly, the mouth from Badagotha to Satapada has almost been closed. Fund shortage has also affected work of ferry channel from Satapada to Gamundia, construction of jetties and peripheral work. The lagoon conservation programme apart, lack of funds for livelihood schemes and outreach activities for about 1 lakh fishermen dependent on the wetland has been impacted too. 

The CDA - set up in 1991 - received Rs 27 crore under the Tenth Finance Commission, Rs 30 crore under the Eleventh Finance Commission, Rs 30 crore under the Twelfth Finance Commission and Rs 50 crore under the Thirteenth Finance Commission. 

The State Government placed a demand of Rs 110 crore and Rs 520 crore for integrated development of the lake. However, there has been no funding by Fourteenth and Fifteenth Finance Commissions. The annual budgetary provision from the State Government for CDA varies between Rs 4 crore and Rs 5 crore which is why it banks on grants from FCs.

The matter was discussed at a high level meeting chaired by Deputy Chairman of Odisha State Planning Board Sanjay Dasburma. Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, Development Commissioner PK Jena, Principal Secretary in Finance department Vishal Dev, Principal Secretary in Forest and Environment department Mona Sharma and Chief Executive of CDA Susant Nanda were present. The Chief Secretary directed CDA to prepare a project report on conservation of the lead channel and other activities.


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