The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Odisha, has written to the centre and state government asking them to reconsider the proposal of operating sea planes in the Chilka Lake.
Mr A.B. Tripathy, State Convener of INTACH said that the delicate ecosystem of this Ramsar Site will be severely affected by such activities. He said that the eco-system of Chilka is already under severe strain and such operations will badly affect the lake and its environment.
The bird sanctuaries at Nalabana and the neighbouring lake side villages had seen a resurgence of migratory birds since the last few years, operating a seaplane will spell the doom for them.
Tripathy said that the Kerala government had mooted the idea of operating sea planes in 22 places, and a detailed DPR had been prepared by Pawan Hans. Test flights had been undertaken and the places for the hydrodromes identified, but the project was shelved due to it being not feasible and the impact of it would be on the ecosystem of the backwaters.
The State Convener also said that the Coastal Highway should not be made on the shores of the Chilka Lake. The stretch of the National Highway from Ganjam till Khurda should be incorporated as the Coastal Highway.
Anil Dhir, the Project Coordinator of INTACH, said that worldwide, sea planes were used only in places where road, air and ferry connectivity were difficult. The production and use of seaplanes worldwide is in decline with production levels at the lowest.
Dhir, who is a former pilot, said that seaplanes are expensive to operate as they have a significant weight penalty. The floats itself cost 40 % of the price of the airplane. They are slow and can carry only 8-10 passengers.
Dhir added that it will be illogical to operate flights to Chilka when one can reach Mangalajodi in 50 minutes by road. The travel time to Balugaon, Barkul, Rambha and Satapada too is around an hour and a half with excellent roads.
Another INTACH member, noted environmental activist Dr. Biswajit Mohanty, said that it is an ill conceived proposal which should never have been mooted.
The proposal will require clearances from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Environment and Forests, the DGCA, the CRZ authorities, local bodies, the State’s Forest Department, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management and the State Pollution Control Board.
There are 4000 tourist boats operating in the different parts of the lake and the sound generated by these boats is already causing harm to the aquatic population of the lake and rampant construction in violation of the CRZ norms is being done.
The dolphin and bird population needs proper care, and overcrowding the lake would have adverse effects. It may be noted here that several ruling BJD leaders including MP Tathagat Satpathy, Minister Maheswar Mohanty, MLA S D Burma have opposed the proposed project.
Noted environmentalist Prafulla Samantara had also objected with a written letter to the CM. Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had however supported the project saying it will boost tourism and provide employment in the region.