Water aerodrome project mulled on Chilika lake

Khurda: The recent boat mishap in Chilika lake might have been a mood dampener for the state, but the new developments being planned on the coastal lagoon are sure to cheer up locals and tourists alike.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) is planning to set up a water aerodrome (an open water area used by seaplanes or aircraft for landing and taking off) on the salt water lake, a move which would not only boost tourism but also work as an additional connectivity.

It is learnt that a team comprising officials of AAI, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and low-cost airline SpiceJet carried out a field visit at Satpada, Rambha, Balugaon area of the lake to assess feasibility of the project. However it is yet to present a study report on the project to Odisha Government.

The state government meanwhile has welcomed the decision saying that it will enhance the tourism sector. “Chilika has a lot of significance on the tourism sector of our state. If there is any such proposal for setting up a water aerodrome then we will welcome it,” said Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda.

Asked about the development, Bhubaneswar Airport Director, Suresh Chandra Hota said “The report is under preparation because a lot of technical inputs are necessary before final submission. The expert team will initially consider various options to test the feasibility of the project followed by consultation with all stakeholders before moving further with the project. The new development if implemented would certainly  usher in more opportunities for tourism, infrastructure development, better livelihood,” Hota said.

Meanwhile, even as the project is under preparation, lot of clearance issues are currently on its way putting its feasibility in doubts.

Parts of Chilika like Nalabana has already been declared a protected bird sanctuary while Satpada a major tourist attraction and breeding centre for endangered dolphins and hundreds of ferries plying on water routes between Balugaon and Rambha has put the feasibility of the project in question.

“Chilika is a Ramsar designated site and before commencing any projects, several clearances needed to be taken. The project is only feasible if the natural ecosystem of the lake is not disturbed by its implementation as the lake comes under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), said Sasmita Lenka, Additional Chief Executive, Chilika Development Authority.

It remains to be seen as to how the new development will affect the rich ecosystem of the Chilika lake, the second largest coastal lagoon in the world, sources said.