Biosphere Reserve is an international designation assigned by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/ marine eco-systems or combination thereof. These are intended to promote conservation of biodiversity and also to promote alternate livelihood for man and preserve cultural values.
The Biosphere Reserves are different from wildlife sanctuary and National Parks in the following aspects:
- Its emphasis is on overall biodiversity and landscape rather than some specific flagship species.
- It lays importance on research activities.
- It takes into account the overall developmental activities and resolves conflict between development and conservation.
- It ensures increased and broad based participation of the local people by special attention given on different components of Biosphere Reserves like landscape, habitats, species and land races.
The Biosphere Reserves are not substitute or alternative to, but re-enforcement of the existing protected areas. The Ministry of Environment and Forests launched the Biosphere Reserve programme in 1986 with these aspects in mind. The specific objectives of this programme are
- to conserve the diversity and integrity of plants and animals within the natural eco-systems.
- to safeguard the genetic diversity of species on which their continuing evolution depends,
- to provide areas for multi-faceted research and monitoring,
- to provide facilities for research and training, and
- to ensure sustainable use of natural resources through most appropriate technology for improvement of economy and living standard of local people.
In order to undertake activities relating to biodiversity conservation and development of sustainable management aspects, BRs are demarcated into three zones, namely core, buffer and transition zones. The core zone is absolutely undisturbed and secures legal protection and management and research activities. In this zone, management and research activities that do not affect natural processes and wildlife are allowed. The core zone is to be kept free from all human pressures external to the system. The buffer zone adjoins the core zone. In this zone, only those activities which protect the core zone are allowed. The activities allowed include limited recreation, tourism, fishing, grazing which are permitted to reduce its effect on core zone. Research and educational activities are to be encouraged. The transition zone is the outer most part of BR. This is a zone of collaboration where conservation knowledge and management skills are applied primarily to foster alternate livelihood and reduce dependence on consumptive use of the forest.
Similipal is in the eastern end of the eastern ghats and classified in the Chhotanagpur biotic province of the Mahanadian bio-geographical region. The transition zone of the Reserve has 1200 villages whose total population is about 4.5 lakhs. The tribals constitute about 73% of this population. The forests and the biodiversity resources to a great extent sustain the livelihood of these people. The forest and wildlife in the sanctuary, and the human population and cattle living in close proximity impact on each other. The Management Action Plan for the BR seeks to put emphasis on suitable programmes of eco-development in the transition zone and also to a limited extent in buffer zone, to promote various alternative livelihood options, and thereby to reduce people’s pressure on the forests.The Similipal Biosphere Reserve has been notified by Government of India on the 22nd June, 1994. It comprises of the entire Similipal sanctuary (core and buffer together), the adjoining Nato and Satkoshia Reserve Forests forming additional buffer and a belt of approximately 10 KM width all around the entire buffer designated as the ‘transition zone’. The total area of this BR is 5569 Sq. KMs. The Similipal hill ranges, a densely forested area constitute the core and a part of the buffer zones of the BR, and there are also 65 villages within these two zones including four in the core zone
- Relatively higher annual precipitation of over 200 cm spread over about 135 days.
- Altitude ranging from 40mts to 1168mts (Khairiburu and Meghasini hills).
- Numerous water courses and two permanent water falls namely Barehipani(400 mts) and Joranda (150 mts).
- Occurrence of frost valleys in central and south Similipal. A degree of resemblance of floral and faunal composition with those of the Western Ghats and north-east India, while being a representative eco-system within the Mahanadian bio-geographic region.
- Marked variation of temperature range between the central and southern regions.
Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3000 species of other plants. These include 2 species of orchids which are endemic, 8 plants which are endangered, 8 species whose status is vulnerable and 34 other rare species of plant. Similipal is also the abode of the black and melanistic tiger which is rare. The identified species of fauna include 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, all of which collectively highlight the Biodiversity richness of Similipal.
Endemism in Similipal is not fully explored, yet it is expected to be very high particularly in sectors like tree ferns, orchids, medicinal plants and insect fauna. The checklist of flora and fauna has been updated at intervals with new additions. Paradoxurus jorandensis, an endemic civet was located by the Zoological Survey of India in Similipal during 1980s and subsequently recorded from all zones of Similipal. Phillautus similipalensis, a frog located near Chahala in 1975 has been identified from other locations from Similipal.
Eria meghasaniensis and Tyna hookeriena are two endemic orchids of Similipal. The former is found near Megahsini in southSimilipal and the latter is seen near Pakaladiha nalla of Jenabil. Another rare orchid, Bulbophyllum panigrahianum, is also seen in Similipal. Oryza officinalis, a specied of paddy known from Kerala was first collected in Odisha from Similipal near Khejuri hills in the late 1980s. The species is rare and sporadic, not used for any purpose locally. Another species of paddy, O. granulata previously recorded from Jeypore in south Odisha has also been recorded in Similipal. The aquatic grass Coix aquatica and several spp. of orchids are some of the other additions.
The elephant population of Similipal is the major surviving concentration of the Central-Indian population. The cat fauna, including the many colour aberrations noticed in tigers and the occurrence of black panthers, are of academic and conservation interest. The cats comprise of Fishing cat, Jungle cat, Leopard cat, and the Leopard. The four-horned antelope or chowsingha is found in certain patches of Similipal. The stream Mahasheer that is characteristic to hilly streams of peninsular India continues to inhabit streams of Similipal, though it is rare. Among the birds, recent additions include Red breasted falconet, Grey-headed fishing eagle, Slender billed scimitar babbler, White eared bulbul, East-Himalayan long-tailed minivet and Common sand piper. Similarly, the Ruddy mangoose (Herpestes smithi) has been an addition after several sightings.
primitive tribeSimilipal Ecosystem
An assemblage of ecosystems ranging into the Forests, Grasslands and Wetlands, the composite ‘Similipal ecosystem’ with indicator species like the tiger, elephant, giant squirrel, mugger crocodile and turtles inhabiting in it enrich the ‘scientific values’ of the area for ecological studies.
Kharias, a primitive tribe inside the sanctuary subsist on collection of non-timber forest products. Honey, Gum, Arrowroot and Wild Mushrooms are collected by them daily. Besides, people from outside also collect the bark of Paja tree (Litsea monopetala), flowers and seeds of Mahua, and seeds of sal. These are only a few of the many NTFP items gathered in Similipal.
Although Gonds were living in few pockets in dense forest of Similipal, Kharias are supposed to be the originial inhabitant of Similipal hills. The Kharia who represented dravidian family speak Oriya and unaware of any other dialect. Other common tribes are Bhumija, Bathudi, Kolha, Gonda, Santhal and Mankadia. The festivals and the dances of these tribes also form a part of their socio-cultural value. In contrast to Khadias, Kolha, Munda, Mahali, Mankadia, Santal have their own dialects such as Kolarian, Mundari, Santali etc. The tribal population comprise of 73.44 %, the scheduled cast population 5.21 % and other castes 21.35 %.
Because of its bio-geographical situation, geological features, the international recognition as one of the first nine prime areas for tiger conservation and for being one of the first eight Biosphere Reserves of India, the Scientific value of Similipal make it a paradise for Scientists pursuing studies on Biodiversity, and many features are believed to have remained unexplored yet. The discoveries of new paddy species and the identification of over 500 species of medicinal plants are only examples of the ‘gene pool reserve’ in Similipal and the vast opportunities for biotechnological research and applications in future.
There are no pollution-causing industries in Mayurbhanj district that could affect the ecological soundness of Similipal. Thus, the ecological vulnerability is only from the current living styles and dependence of people on Similipal. About 4.5lakhs people constitute the 80,000 families who live within or close to Similipal, and about 50% of them earn a part of or the complete livelihood from Similipal.
The status of implementation of this programme in Similipal BR:Threats
Activities of these people also generate threats that cause major obstacles in biodiversity-conservation in Similipal. The specific threats are: the loss of diversity due to collection of small timber and fire-wood; the loss of diversity due to ‘Fire’, and the loss of diversity due to Shikar (Illegal Hunting of wildlife). “Akhand Shikar” is considered to be one singular custom that results in large-scale killing of wild animals. The solution to this lies in keeping the people in such professions that are attractive and keep the people engaged round the year. Ecodevelopment schemes have been launched in this direction.
Up to the year 2003-04 Government of India assistance amounting to Rs.207.3194 lakhs has been received and utilised. The utilisation of funds was Rs.50.01 lakhs during 2001-02, Rs.58.06 lakhs during 2002-03 and Rs.32.181 lakhs during 2003-04. 343 numbers of Eco-Development Committees have been organised. There is a local committee chaired by the Director, Biosphere Reserve and comprising of district level officers of various related departments and also two NGOs of Mayurbhanj district, which deliberate from time to time to formulate suitable action programmes.
The major investment has been in construction of 36 numbers of water harvesting structures and improvement of irrigation channels to fields. Digging and renovation of ponds and pisci-culture have been carried out over 16 ponds. Sabai rope making units and sal-leaf plate-making units have been supplied to the villagers. Health camps, anti-malaria campaign, immunisation of people and cattle have been carried out. The facility of revolving fund for micro-credit has been extended to selected community groups. Training in sericulture, sabai rope making, improved agricultural technique, bee keeping, orchid growing and in the job of eco-guide, etc. been imparted to 112 persons.
The long term programmes would comprise of (a) an in depth study of the status of biodiversity resources, eco-systems, and ecological processes in Similipal to establish a bench mark; (b) a critical study of the socio-economic setting in the biosphere area, and exploration of the various alternate livelihood options; and (c) nurturing the process of organising the local communities into eco-development committees and formation of green brigades to build up proper stake-holding of the natural-biological resource.Future Strategy:
The Biosphere programme will seek to make a sustained impact on the over all scenario of biodiversity conservation, and would therefore have a component of long term programmes and a component of short term interventions.
The short term interventions would consist of measures (a) to build up awareness of the destructive practices which need to be curbed, (b) to explore the potential and the prospects of eco-tourism, (c) to channelise the water flow out of Similipal to agricultural fields, (d) to support suitable micro enterprises and micro credit to self help groups, and (e) to mount a vigorous programme for controlling malaria and cattle disease.
Wildlife SanctuaryNational Park
In a bid to conserve the complex and fragile mangrove ecosystem and the endangered flora, fauna associated with it, Govt. of Odisha Vide notification No. 6958/FFAH dt. 22.4.1975 constituted the ex-zamindary forests of Kanika Raj which were declared as P.F. Vide notification No. 33233 dt. 04.10.1961 as a Sanctuary known as Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The area of the Sanctuary is 672 Sq. Kms.
Subsequently, in the year 1998, the core area of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary comprising of 145 Sq. Kms was declared as a National Park Vide Notification No.19686 / F&E dated 16.9.98 because of its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological and zoological association and importance and for the purpose of protectin
The area has also been designated as the second Ramsar site (i.e. Wetland of International importance) of the State during August, 2002. It is a unique area with rich biodiversity as it covers different ecosystems such as the landmass, tidal waterbodies of the deltaic region, estuaries and territorial waters of the Bay of Bengal along with their associated flora and fauna.Biosphere Reserve (Proposed)
The deltaic region formed by the alluvial deposits of river Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara (Bhitarkanika) and the Mahanadi deltaic area, comprising of about 3000 Sq. Km. forms the proposed Bhitarkanika Biosphere Reserve. This deltaic region is a unique bioclimatic zone in a typical geographic situation in the coastal region of Bay of Bengal. It is located in the Kendrapara District of the State of Odisha.
The proposed Bhitarkanika Biosphere Reserve covers erstwhile Kanika and Kujang Zamindari area. It includes at present three protected areas namely Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhitarkanika National Park and the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary.
The resilient mangroves serve the protective functions to a greater extent. It protects the hinterland against cyclonic storms during cyclones, super cyclones, tidal surges and other natural catastrophes acting as an effective shelterbelt. In the unprecedented super cyclone of October 1999, the mangroves has withstood the onslaught of cyclonic wind and saved the life and property of millions of people.
Mangrove wetlands perform a variety of productive as well as protective functions. This mangrove wetland in particular is a repository of biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna.
This ecosystem harbours the largest number of saltwater crocodile population in the Indian sub-continent. Other reptilian fauna include Monitor lizard, Indian python, King cobra and varieties of other snake species. It also harbours a number of endangered animals like Fishing cat, Leopard cat, Dolphins and Porpoises.
Bhitarkanika’s famous Gahirmatha coast finds a prominent place in the turtle map of the world because of the distinction of having one of world’s largest nesting and breeding congregation of Olive Ridley Sea turtles.
Mangrove wetlands including mudflats provide ideal feeding, perching and nesting facilities to a variety of resident and migratory waterfowl.
The wetland supports one of the largest mangrove ecosystems after Sundarbans, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in the Indian mainland. It has more than 300 numbers of plant species, which include mangroves, mangrove associates and non mangroves. The floral diversity of Bhitarkanika wetland is known to be largest in India and second largest after Papua New Guinea in the world. Considering the genetic diversity of the wetland and its importance, the mangrove steering committee of Govt. of India have established its National Mangrove Genetic Resource Conservation Centre in one of the islands of this wetland i.e. Kalibhanjadia island.
The area supports rich biodiversity including mangroves and mangrove associates (71 species), largest population of estuarine crocodiles (1358 as per 2004 census), the rare white crocodile (Sankhua), largest Indian lizards (water monitor), poisonous and non-poisonous snakes like king cobra and python, varieties of resident and migratory birds (217 species) and number of mammalian species (spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, fishing cat, jungle cat, otter etc.) In comparison to the national status, the composition of vertebrate fauna / species of Bhitarkanika project area represents 8% mammals, 17.70% birds, 9.40% reptiles and 2.5 % amphibians. The Gahirmatha sea beach, bordering the sanctuary attracts hundreds and thousands of Olive ridley sea turtles for mass nesting / egg laying (World’s largest rookery) during the winter months (January to April).
Endemism and Biological Uniqueness
Endemism in Bhitarkanika is not fully explored. Yet, it is expected to be there particularly in sectors like mangrove flora and benthic fauna, soil fauna, aquatic flora and fauna. Among the three species of Sundari trees (Heritiera sp.) available, Heritiera kanikensis or Kanika Sundari is endemic to Bhitarkanika.
Bhitarkanika is endowed with a very complex and dynamic ecosystem and is highly fragile in nature. The ecosystem is complex in a sense that all the sub ecosystem namely fresh water, marine and terrestrial are intricately mixed with each other. The essential factor for maintenance of such ecosystem is regular influx of fresh water from adjoining land and tidal inflow from the sea. Any change in the regime of either factor is likely to effect a corresponding change in the mangrove ecosystem.
Depending upon the degree of inundation, the species composition, richness and diversity varies. Since the area contains older formations and newly accreting landmass, several horizontal zonation of plant communities are met with. The horizontal and vertical zonation of plant communities influenced by influx of fresh water degree of inundation, seasonal rainfall and salinity gradients greatly influence the status of wildlife, their number and distribution
Mangrove wetland encompasses a host of ecosystems namely; estuarine / brackish water ecosystem, riverine ecosystem, forest ecosystem, etc. Each such ecosystem supports food chains within it to maintain the balance of nature.
Mangroves have been considered as “land builders”. It is believed that the roots of mangroves secrete a substance, which modifies the coarse particles into fine ones and help in soil formation. The tangles of stilt roots also help in sedimentation of particulate matter. Network of mangrove roots provide firm anchorage to the banks of tidal rivers, creeks and also the coast line. It effectively arrests river bank and coastal erosion and ultimately helps in controlling flood damages. It also exercises a moderating influence on the cyclonic wind and storm surges. In the past, serve cyclones and tidal surges of the coastal Kendrapara district; particularly the Rajnagar area, is known to have been effectively controlled due to the presence of thick mangrove vegetation in the zone of Bhitarkanika and the adjoining Mahanadi deltaic area.
Mangrove areas support a range of interconnected food webs, which directly sustain the fisheries. Algae and detritus sustain shrimps and prawns, which provide a food source for species such as Bhekti (Lates sp.) Cat fishes etc. Fish and prawns spend most of their adult life at sea and return to the mangrove areas and vice versa to spawn. Some of the commercially important fishes are Ilisha, (Hilisa illisha), Khainga (Mullet sp.), Bhekti (Lates calcarifer), Kantia (Mustus gulia), Kokill (Anchovella sp.) etc. Prawns such as Penaeus indicus, tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon), Metapenaeus affinis and crabs, mainly the mud crabs (Scylla serrata) are exploited in large numbers by the fishermen both in the breeding and non-breeding seasons. Mud skippers, a typical fish reside around and in mangroves. These fishes are able to survive short periods of aerial exposure, skip around on the water and mud and build chimney like burrows.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC VALUEEcological Vulnerability
Ecological Vulnerability is due to large scale encroachments, current living styles and dependence of people on Bhitarkanika. Although there are known pollution causing Industries like Oswal and PPL, etc. around Bhitarkanika which could affect the ecological soundness, use of chemicals and pesticides in agricultural fields and effluents coming from large number of prawn gherries has some impact on the wildlife depending on the aquatic habitat.
Bhitarkanika mangrove wetland is one of the most productive ecosystems. It adds to the coastal fishery production. The rivers and creeks in the wetland are a major source of variety of indigenous fish. The sheltered waters of mangroves provide nursery ground for commercially harvested prawns and shrimps. Several fish species come to the estuary for breeding. Fishing is the mainstay of the villagers those who do not have any landed property. In addition, the local people depend on the mangrove vegetation for collection of honey, wax and medicinal plants. Around 50 quintal of honey is available per year in Bhitarkanika forests.
The wetland has a good number of ancient monuments like palace of ex-zamindar, Shiva temple inside Bhitarkanika forest block, Jagannath temple at Righagarh and Keradagarh, Panchubarahi goddess temple at Satabhaya and others such small temples which are culturally significant to the inhabitants.
The wetland is endowed with a variety of habitats and microhabitats to shelter wide ranging aquatic, terrestrial and avifauna. The animals and birds associated with the mangrove and wetland can be broadly categorized into two groups namely invertebrate and vertebrate. Vertebrate fauna include a variety of fishes, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals.
The Saltwater crocodile “rear and rehabilitation” operation is a success story in Bhitarkanika and the crocodile population in the Bhitarkanika river system has been gradually built up. The captive reared young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and estuaries and above 2200 crocodiles have been released in phases since 1977. Some of the released crocodiles have bred successfully in the wild and above 45 clutches of eggs have been located, which is 6.5% more in comparison to 1975-76.
Bhitarkanika is a living laboratory for Scientists / Biologists perusing studies on Biodiversity and human values. Scientific research on the endangered Saltwater crocodiles and Olive Ridley Sea turtles over two decades and half in Bhitarkanika have yielded much scientific data / information on the species and its habitat. Much study need to be done on the flora and fauna which are still remained unexplored.Ecotourism Potentiality:
Bhitarkanika has become an identified tourist destination in Odisha and is a paradise for nature lovers, conservationists, and biologists. However, the Ecotourism potentiality is yet to be fully explored. Some infrastructure are presently available in places like Chandbali, Dangmal, Dhamara, Habalikhati, Gupti and Ekakula for catering the need of tourists which are being developed and upgraded. Number of tourists in Bhitarkanika in the past three years are as follows:
2001- 2002 : 28,000
2002- 2003 : 24,000
2003- 2004 : 22,000
DEMOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE’S LIVELIHOOD
Above 9 lakh people in about 900 revenue villages and hamlets live in and around proposed Bhitarkanika Biosphere Reserve (410 villages in the sanctuary area). The people who live in the villages adjoining mangrove forest blocks earn a part of their livelihood from the mangrove ecosystem, which constitutes about 100 villages. The livelihood patterns of rest of the villages directly or indirectly influence the very existence and survival of the flora and fauna of the mangrove ecosystem. It is, therefore, essential to provide alternative means of livelihood for the people living in about 100 villages to reduce their dependency on this eco-fragile ecosystem and to take measures so that the land use pattern and also livelihood issues of the rest of the villages shall not exert any negative influence on the existence and survival of this coastal mangrove ecosystem.
Encroachment of forestland:
Encroachment of forestland by the migratory people and conversion of the same into common homestead and agriculture land are the main problem in this locality. This has put tremendous biotic pressure on the potential mangrove forests. In the encroached land, the tidal creeks are being blocked by earthen bunds, which prevents the natural tidal flow and gradually the mangrove vegetation perish from that area.Aquaculture:
In and around the site, a large chunk of the agriculture land adjacent to rivers and creeks have been converted to prawn farms. Even number of people from outside the area have purchased private land along the coast as well as along the creeks and converted the same to aquaculture farms. They are discharging the untreated effluents from the farm to nearby rivers and creeks and thereby affecting the aquatic fauna and the mangroves.
Fishing in the rivers and creeks by the surrounding local people is posing several adverse factors, the major being obstruction of migratory routs of fishes and blocking of free movement of crocodiles. Sometime, fishing by the local people leads to virtual closure of creeks, thereby the tidal inundation is hampered to a considerable extent. Fishing in the near shore and off shore coastal waters resulting in mortality of endangered Sea turtles, Dolphins, etc. Movement of fishing vessels in the congregated breeding ground of Sea turtles is affecting the social facilitation in Ridleys and disturbing the mating pairs.
Live Stock and Grazing:
An estimated 70,000 cattle depend on the forest and meadow located therein for grazing during cropping season. This puts pressure on mangrove vegetation especially Avicennia species.CONSERVATION MEASURES
To wean the poachers away from poaching, a massive awareness programme has been undertaken The efforts are supplemented with the establishment of anti-poaching camps at strategic points. To encourage eco-tourism, training camps for eco-guides and boat-man associations are being organised.Habitat Development
Habitat development inside the sanctuary is being done with funds received from MoEF of Govt. of India. These measures include raising up of plantations, digging and renovation of creeks and digging of ponds.
The State Forest and Environment Department have taken several measures for conservation and management of this unique wetland and its rich biodiversity, with the support of the Ministry of E &F, Govt. of India. These measures include:
· Building of Data base
· Protection of salt water crocodiles and sea turtles
· Protection of migratory waterfowl and other species prone to poaching for meat
· Weed control
· Restoration of the feeding and roosting habitat of water fowls
· Pollution control
· Creation of awareness about the values and functions of mangroves and wetland
· Research and development activities
· Community participation
· Capacity building
· Institutional strengthening
· Promotion of eco-tourism
Chilika has a pride of place in Odisha’s literature and culture, and has influenced the poets and philosophers. It has held great significance for planners, scientists, international organizations like ‘The Wetlands International’ and ‘Asian Wetland Bureau’. Chilika lagoon has been designated as a Ramsar site (Wetland of International importance) from the 1st October, l981.
The water spread of the lagoon varies between 1165 Sq.km in monsoon to 906 Sq.km during summer, and extends over Puri,Khurda and Ganjam districts. The lagoon itself can be broadly divided in to four natural sectors based on salinity and depth: the southern zone, central zone, northern zone, and the outer channel.
One of the submerged (potential) islands covering, an area of 15.53 Sq.km has been notified as Chilika (Nalaban) Wildlife Sanctuary on 17th December l987. The whole area of the Chilika Lake, excluding the area notified as Sanctuary has been declared as a ‘Closed Area’ for a period of five years with effect from 16th December 2002.
The ecosystem features of Chilika comprising of tidal ingress from the sea, which mixes with the fresh water brought by rivers like Daya, Bhargabi, Luna, and large number of rivulets.
Several islands are situated in this lagoon, inhabited by large human population (1.3 lakh approx.) variously dependent on this wetland for sustenance. A number of villages and towns around the lagoon are closely associated with the wetland, in one way or the other for economic activities. About 70% of this population depends on fishing as the means of livelihood.
There are 546 species of angiospermic plants belonging to 379 genera and 107 families, above 100 phytoplankton genera, 20 species of weed and 7 pteridophytic species documented so far in the Lagoon and the islands.
Chilika is very rich in both invertebrate and vertebrate fauna. This Ramsar site is the habitat for the largest congregation of waterfowls in India.
Over a million birds congregate in this water body for feeding and roosting. Migration commences in late September and the birds remain up to April, but the peak congregation period is mid-December to middle of January. Birds belonging to over 230 species including 14 birds of prey (32% aquatic, 22%waders, and 46% terrestrial birds) are seen in this lake, of which 95 species are intercontinental and local migrants. Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, remote parts of Russia, central and south East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas for feeding and roosting. 15 species of ducks and two species of geese (Order: Anseriformes), cover over 70% of the migratory birds which visit this lagoon annually. The ducks and geese are followed by coots, rails and cranes (Gruiformes) 15%; waders/shore birds (Charadriformes) 12%; pelicans (Pelecaniformes) 1.5%; grebes (Podicipediformes) 1%; kites, eagles etc. (Falconiformes) and kingfishers (Coraciformes) 0.5%.
Chilika holds the highest concentration of waterfowl. The 2004 survey estimates total of 8, 66,477 birds representing 137 species of which 85 are migrant species. Waterfowl visitation to Chilika in 2004 was 1.9 times the number in comparison to the year 2003. Population status of waterfowl in the entire Chilika lagoon vis-à-vis the population in Nalaban Sanctuary in the different years as under:
Number of birds as per survey estimate
(68.3%)In Chilika during the current bird migration season, maximum congregation of waterfowl (migratory and local) was observed in peripheral marshy areas of the Chilika lagoon such as: Kalupada ghatt, Manglajodi, Sorana, etc.
The other vertebrate fauna includes:
· 321 species of fish and crab (fresh water, estuarine and marine species),
· 7 species of amphibians,
· 30 species of reptiles (12 species of lizards and 18 species of snakes) and
· 18 species of mammals.
Two major crabs species (Scylla serreta and Neptunus pelagicus), available in Chilika are of commercial importance.
Most notable and endangered species also included in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection)Act ) available in the lagoon are:
· Barkudia insularis, a limbless lizard/skink (this skink is named after the “Barukuda” island of the lake);
· an aquatic mammal i.e., Irrawaddy dolphin, Orcaella brevirostris ,
· Fishing cat( Felis viverrina),
· White bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), White spoon bill (Platalea leucorodia), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and
· Spoon billed sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus).
The population of Irrawaddy or Snubfin dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris (locally known as “Bhuasuni Magar”) is threatened due to intensive fishing and plying of mechanised boats in the lake. At present there are about 80-90 Irrawaddy dolphins in the entire lake. A small population of Bottle nosed dolphin, Sousa chinensis also migrate in to the lagoon from the sea.
ARRIBADA OF OLIVE RIDLEY SEA TURTLES
The mass nesting beach (rookery) along the Chilika coast is at Rushikulya which is located at the southern Odisha coast. It spreads over six km. stretching from the coastline in front of village Purunabandh (one Km north of Rushikulya river mouth) to the beach in front of Kantiagada village of Ganjam District. The nesting beach is much wide, more or less flat with scattered sand dunes of 1 – 2 m high. The average beach width is about 100 m from near the high tide line, though at some places the width of the beach is more than 100 m. About 2,00,000 turtles estimated to have nested in this rookery in the arribada of March, 1994. In subsequent years there was a decline in the number of turtles nesting at this rookery (1994-95: 0.60lakhs; 1995-96: 1.18 lakhs; 1996-97: 0.25 lakhs; 1997-98: 0.085 lakhs). There was no mass nesting in this rookery during 1998-99, 1999-2000 and 2002. However, a total of 1.59 lakh turtles came to the Rushikulya rookery during the first mass nesting period of 2000-01. The first mass nesting at this rookery continued over a 7 days period starting from 26th February to 4th March 2001. The mass nesting figures for the last three years are as follows (2001-02:0.35 lakhs; 2002-03:2.8 lakhs; 2003-04: 2.01 lakhs).
Chilika Lake is threatened by siltation, eutrophication, change in salinity regime, proliferation of freshwater weed, increased aquaculture activities, changes in species composition, depletion of bio- resources, and decrease in fish population etc.
People have been using migratory birds arriving in Chilika for wintering as a source of protein supplement for quite some time. With the passage of time, this source of protein supplement has also become a source of livelihood for them. The inaccessibility of certain pockets due to weed infestation has boosted their activity as they find easy escape routes in these areas.
In a major intervention to manipulate the lake hydrology, a new mouth was opened near Ramabhartia in the year 2000 by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA), Bhubaneswar to let fresh ingress of seawater into the lake. The results of this intervention indicate that the salinity levels inside the lagoon have increased to certain extent in comparison to previous years, which apparently has led to decrease in the weed growth area and increase in fish catch. Impact of this manipulation (increased salinity level in the lake) on the ecosystem of the lake as a whole and Nalaban Sanctuary in particular and on the population of migratory birds / waterfowl in the lake needs closer assessment.
In an innovative experiment to wean the poachers away from poaching, a massive awareness programme has been undertaken and bird protection committees have been formed. These committees assist the Forest Department in their protection efforts during the migratory season. In some areas, like Mangalajodi and Bhusandpur, the response from the villagers has been encouraging. These efforts are supplemented with the establishment of anti-poaching camps at strategic points along the coast line. To encourage eco-tourism, training camps for eco-guides and boat-man associations at Balugaon and Satpada are being organised.
Habitat development inside the sanctuary is being done with funds received from Govt. of India and Chilika Development Authority. These measures include raising up of plantations, digging and renovation of creeks and digging of ponCONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
The State Environment Department and the Chilika Development Authority have taken several measures for conservation and management of this unique wetland and its rich biodiversity, with the support of the Ministry of E &F, Govt. of India. These measures include:
· Protection of migratory waterfowl and other species prone to poaching for meat.
· Catchments area treatment
· Weed control
· Restoration of the feeding and roosting habitat of water fowl
· Pollution control
· Creation of awareness about the values and functions of wetland
· Research and development activities
· Community participation
· Capacity building
· Building of Data base of the lagoon
· Promotion of eco-tourism
The changing profile of the lake has led to new challenges. The bird congregation, which was largely confined to Nalaban and other four to five areas, has now dispersed to peripheral areas such as Kalupada, Mangalajodi, and Bhusandpur, etc. This has posed a problem of protection of birds due to difficulty in accessibility of the area and constraint of resources. Increase in tourism inside Chilika has given rise to death of Irrawaddy dolphins, which may at a later stage be detrimental to the overall population of these endangered dolphins. This, however, has also offered opportunities to work hand in hand with other stakeholders working in the area for overall conservation of the lagoon.