The Chilika lake is still dying. But there are indications that once the Ramsar International Mission submits its report, the lagoon may be out of the Montreaux Record. The joint secretary, union ministry of environment and forests, pointed this out while speaking at a two-day international workshop on 'Restoration of Chilika Lagoon', organised by the Chilika Development Authority in collaboration with Wetlands International-South Asia at Bhubaneswar recently.
It is reported that the mission, which visited the largest brackish water lake in Asia, was highly impressed by the conservation measures of the state government. But the fact is that the lagoon is still facing a plethora of problems ranging from siltation, shrinkage, choking of the inlet channel to shifting of the mouth connecting it to the sea, decrease in salinity, proliferation of invasive fresh water species, decrease in fish productivity and biodiversity loss. It was due to these factors that Chilika was placed in the Montreaux Record, a list of wetlands subjected to human-induced ecological changes, in the year 1993. Ironically, the state of the lake remains almost the same even after a decade.
Apart from these problems, the biggest threat to the lake emanates from the prawn mafia and non-traditional fish workers. Considering the dismal situation, the state government recently proposed a bill to impose a ban on prawn culture aimed more at empowering the state than the vulnerable fishing community (see Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 17, January 31, 2002). The community has been on the warpath after it got an inkling of the alleged ulterior motives of the government officials. Against this backdrop, it sounded paradoxical when C L Trishal, director of Wetlands International South Asia, said that Chilika's ecosystem management was carried out with the help of local people.
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