Civil society, BJP MLA oppose Chilika aerodrome

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Bhubaneswar, August 14: Stiff resistance to the water aerodrome plan at Chilika Lake continued Tuesday with the proposal drawing flak from civil society as well as from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself.
Following opposition from BJD leaders, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Odisha Environmental Society (OES) have opposed the project.
INTACH has written to the state government and Centre asking them to reconsider the proposal to operate seaplanes in Chilika Lake.
INTACH state convener AB Tripathy said the lake’s delicate ecosystem will be severely affected by such activities. He said that the ecosystem of Chilika is already under severe strain.
The bird sanctuaries at Nalabana and lakeside villages have seen a resurgence of migratory birds for the last few years and operating a seaplane will spell doom for them, he said.
Tripathy said the Kerala government had mooted the idea of operating seaplanes at 22 places, and a detailed project report had been prepared by Pawan Hans. Test flights were undertaken and the places for hydrodromes identified, but the project was shelved as it would have harmed the backwaters.
Similarly, OES secretary Jay Krushan Panigrahy said, “We are not opposing developmental projects. But, it should be implemented without putting any harm to the biodiversity and nature. Development tourism is needed but at the same time safety and sustainability of biodiversity is also crucial.”
Before moving ahead with this project, a thorough study should be undertaken at Chilika to access the possible impact of the project on the environment and the birds, visiting the lake in winter season, Panigrahy added.
Another environment activist Biswajit Mohanty said that it is an ill-conceived proposal. The proposal will require clearances from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) authorities, local bodies, the Forest department, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management and the Odisha State Pollution Control Board.
BJP MLA Dilip Ray expressed his concern about the possible impact on environment due to the project. “Any advancement in the proposal to set up water aerodrome in the Chilika lagoon should be made after doing a thorough study on its benefits and ecological consequences,” Ray said.
When noise pollution generated by the thousands of mechanised boats operating in the region has already taken a toll on the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins, the flagship species of Chilika lagoon, the introduction of amphibious aircraft will further worsen the situation, he added.
Stating the lake being a temporary habitat for lakhs of migratory birds, the BJP leader further said that the safety of the passengers will also be at risk as there will be chances of the birds being hit by the low flying aircraft. If at all, any advancement is made in this project, the delicate ecosystem of regions of the lake such as Nalabana Island and Satapada Islands should not be disturbed, he added.
Notably, the project was first opposed by senior BJD leader and Dhenkanal MP Tathagata Satpathy. Following him, BJD leaders including Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty and Brahmagiri MLA Sanjay Das Burma had opposed it.

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