IIT Madras Helps In Tripling Irrawaddy Dolphins Population In Odisha’s Chilika Lake


Bhubaneswar: There are more Irrawaddy dolphins in Odisha’s Chilika Lake than ever before, thanks to a research project by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. It has helped Asia’s largest brackish water body in tripling the population of the Irrawaddy dolphins. 

What is more, the lake is no longer on the threatened list. It was included in the list by Ramsar Convention in 1993 due to its degraded condition.

What was done?

A geotechnical, hydraulic and satellite imagery study was conducted and a dredging methodology with minimum impact on the lake ecosystem was developed.

Dredging involves excavating the material from the bottom, removing this loosened material to the dredge vessel and ultimately transporting it to the placement area, PTI reported.

Farmers reap benefit

The whole process has benefited over 200,000 fishermen living in 132 villages around the lake. The fish catch has increased seven-fold.

“Chilika Lagoon is over 4,000 years old and spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha. The highly productive ecosystem of the lake supports the livelihood for fishermen and also acts as drainage for Mahanadi river basin,” R Sundaravadivelu, Professor at Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras was quoted as saying by PTI.

“The geotechnical, hydraulic and satellite imagery studies showed the spit of Chilika is constantly changing. The sand bar has been widening, and the position of the mouth constantly shifting, moving generally towards the northeast. The mouth was described as being about 1.5 km wide in 1780 and had decreased to half within forty years in 1820.”

“It also showed the Chilika lake mouth located originally near Sipakuda in 1800 has gradually shifted in the last 200 years towards the northern side to Arkhakuda,” he said.

“The enhancement of fishery resources and the increase of population of Irrawaddy dolphin promoted ecotourism which immensely benefited the local fishers,” said Professor R Sundaravadivelu.

Meanwhile, the Chilika Lake Authority has developed an Ecosystem Health Report Card and periodical monitoring of salinity, fish and dolphin, freshwater weeds, birds and other biological parameters are being carried out.


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