In 1981, it became India’s first wetland to be designated as internationally important under the Ramsar convention—a global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of water bodies. This August, the Union civil aviation ministry granted ‘in-principle’ approval to a plan of building a sea aerodrome for fixed-wing amphibian planes on the Chilika lake in Odisha. Earlier, in June, a joint team of officials from the Airports Authority of India and carrier SpiceJet, which has evinced interest in operating such planes in Chilika, visited the area scouting for a possible site for the aerodrome.
The over two lakh fishermen dependent on the Chilika, however, are worried that their cache, already reduced considerably due to the lake shrinking and the prawn mafia’s illegal ‘gheries’ (enclosures for intensive prawn farming), would shrink even further. “Why are they bent on killing the Chilika, which has sustained us for centuries?” asks Sanatan Behera, a local fisherman.