Column: Let’s Make Chilika Completely Safe For Birds

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Chilika, the largest brackish water lake of Asia, has turned into a plumed wonder with hundreds of migratory birds presently lazing in its cerulean waters. This is the best time of the year to visit the lagoon when it is bathed in exotic colours with winged guests making all kinds of noises.

Chilika, one of Nature’s most precious gifts to Odisha and a Ramsar site, is a bird watchers’ paradise. But the joy of seeing the lake in its full glory is tinged with concern about the safety of the visiting avians who come here from alien climes, some as far off as the Caspian Sea and Baikal Lake.

The winged beauties are constantly stalked by poachers during their stay in the lake area. The threat perception remains high despite the security measures taken by the forest and wildlife officials. Anti-poaching camps are set up every year routinely and mobile patrolling in the lake is also undertaken.

The focal point of security is invariably the 15.53 sq km Nalabana bird sanctuary located in the core area of the lake which witnesses the largest congregation of the avians. But despite the vigil mounted by the forest department, the sanctuary faces a threat both from poachers and the local fishermen who become active in the area right from the monsoon months that precede winter.

Heavy rains during the monsoon submerges the boundary markers of Nalabana where fishing is banned round the year. But fishermen try to sneak into the area taking advantage of the non-visibility of markers which go under the water during these months. If caught they try to wriggle out by putting the blame on the submerged markers. So poachers entering the sanctuary clandestinely in the garb of fishermen is a possibility the authorities guarding the lake must look into seriously.

Nalabana is the lake’s most favoured area for the birds because they get enough food stock on the mudflats of the island. But the island is progressively getting shallower exposing it to the danger of not only human but also bovine intrusion. In the past, there have been instances of herds of buffaloes raiding the island and damaging the mudflats as well as the watchtowers set up there.

While Nalabana is always the priority area as far as the security of the winged guests is concerned forest officials also keep a watchful eye on other parts of the lake, mainly the villages of Mangaljodi and Sorana which have been notorious for poaching. Going by media reports forest department has set up 20 camps this year to keep an eye on bird stalkers.

In 2018 the number of anti-poaching camps in the lake during the winter was 19 with 10 of these set up in Tangi but vigil was also tight in Mangaljodi and Bhushandpur, another village notorious for bird killings. Ensuring the security of visiting birds is a huge challenge considering the vast expanse of the lake which straddles three districts. But the menace of bird poaching must be tackled with an iron hand.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)