Manatee Might Come To Chilka

The Asian’s grandest Chilka lake in Puri district, famed for its rare breed of dolphin and eye-catching bird habitation pulling oversease tourists, will soon turn into a safe heaven for another blue-chip guest. While Chilka lake is a legitimate tourist hotspot declared by the state government since 2002 for its rare Irrawaddy dolphin, now the scientists are more hopeful of comeback of the sea cow into the lake, which were the star attraction hundred years ago. The sea grass is now found growing in the Chilka in large numbers which has nourished the hope in the German researchers of sea cow returning to its old habitation. That might be another attraction for tourists in the near future.

                Sources to Chilka Development Authority (CDA) said, the sea grass of 1902 is again found growing in Chilka which can attract this aquatic mammal once again. Before 1902, it is to be noted, a the major part of Chilka water was fully covered with scented and beautiful grass plants and was the feeding ground for manatees. With the passage of time the grass bed started eroding and the mammal living there disappeared due to lack of food and accommodation. And after hundred years, their presence in the lake is almost nil. The scented flowers of this grass had attracted so many rare birds, beautiful insects and fishes to get into the lake through sea mouths. This had also maintained the ecological balance and preserved the salinity of water. Even several exotic birds and rare fishes, once found in large quantity in the Chilka, are no more today due to ruining eco-system. A report said, manatees once found in plenty in the Atlantic Ocean are on the verge of extinction due to rapid erosion of its ecology.

                Few months back a group of scientists led by Prof Jutta, Pepenberg of Leibniz University and Prof Mathias Pizz, Cologne University, on a study tour to the Chilka found the sea grass spread over 80 square kilometres of water. In 2000, the grass orientation was limited to 20 square kilometers only, which has now elongated to other areas of the lake. The CDA has signed an MoU with the varsities to initiate project works in order to avail technical know-how for the regrowth of this rare breed. Scientists hope that the grass bed would not only allure the mammal from ocean but many rare creatures would also come to choose the Chilka for their safe nest.

                Anther report said, out of around 12 classes and 52 subclasses of sea grass plants found in the oceans, five classes exsist in the Chilka lake. It grows better in semi-saline water. After the new sea mouth opened to the Chilka from the Bay of Bengal, this plant is found spreading to some other parts. Even a new plant with beautiful flowers namely Halophila is found during rainy season near the river mouth that is a good symbol, scientists have viewed. Due to the sea mouth the salinity level during summer is maintained, which is the reason behind the re-growth of dead habitation. Researchers hope the Chilka would return to its old posture decorated with rare creatures, fishes and beautiful birds with aquatic forestry spreading all around. It might turn out to be the breeding ground for dugong, researchers have opined. After the discovery of Irrawaddy dolphin near Satpada, the number of tourists has surpassed the mark of two lakh per annum with Nalabana bird sanctuary has turned into a global hotspot. It earns huge foreign exchange for the state. And government hopes that the Chilka would sure push its fame to global chart attracting more exotics tourists. The study aims to build infrastructure in order to help in creating a conducive atmosphere for manatees.

By Saroj Kumar Mishra from Puri

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