Bringing life back to Chilika lagoon in India

Content and Media Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature

This 116,500 hectare brackish lagoon separated from the Bay of Bengal by a long sandy ridge was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 1981.This was because the lagoon was facing serious degradation due to siltation and choking of the seawater inlet channel, resulting in the proliferation of invasive freshwater species, the decrease in fish productivity, and an overall loss of biodiversity [1].In response to this situation, the Chilika Development Authority implemented a bold programme of action to restore the ecosystem and to improve the socio-economic conditions of the communities living around the lagoon and on its islands. The measures included:

  • Desiltation of the channel connecting the lagoon to the sea and opening of a new mouth to restore the natural flows of water and salinity levels. This resulted in a substantial increase in the lagoon's fish yield and a reduction of freshwater weeds.
  • Catchment management in a participatory manner
  • Protection of bird habitat and of bird species
  • Economic incentives to the local population to stop poaching of birds
  • Measures to improve the socio-economic conditions, such as training programmes to develop eco-tourism, provision of solar streetlight systems to island villages, development of a ferry service for isolated villages, construction of landing facilities for fisherfolk, as well as education and environmental awareness activities [1].

These efforts were conducted on the basis of scientific studies and recommendations of the premier institutes of the country, with the involvement of the local population and the support of Wetlands International and local NGOs, as well as grass-root and community-based organisations and provides an excellent example of how collective efforts based on institutuional backing, scientific rigor and involvement of people through collective partnership can go a long way in yielding positive results and restoring the environment.


1. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Downloaded from the site on 28th November 2011