Previous Session

Session14: Sustainable water resources management 
and water resources policy/Coastal Ecosystems 

Next Session

Chairman: Dr. Devashish Kar

Rapporteur: Sreekantha

Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystem and  Biodiversity Conservation

Shyamala Mani, Archana Dange and Ruchismita Das

Centre for Environment Education, Bangalore

Aquatic ecosystems hold great potential to serve a diverse set of uses from recreation and research, to ground water recharge.  They are also important habitats for a large number of residents and migratory waterbirds.  Aquatic ecosystems are continuously deteriorated 

Owing to the various factors such as pollution, siltation, tourism and uncontrolled growth of weeds.  The sustainable management of these ecosystems is of prime importance from the point of biodiversity conservation.  This paper will highlight case studies of Chilika lagoon, River Noyyal and Point Calimere lagoon. 

The vast and dream like Chilika lagoon is the largest brackish water lagoon with estuarine character that sprawls along the East Coast.  It is an avian grandeur as more than one million migratory waterfowl winter here. It is one of the hotspots of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red list of threatened animals inhabit Chilika for at least part of their life cycle.  On account of its rich biodiversity, Chilika was designated as a "Ramsar Site", i.e. a wetland of International importance in 1981.  The Nalaban island within the Lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act.  The Lagoon with its highly productive ecosystem sustains the livelihood of more than one million fisher folk who live in 132 villages in and around the lagoon. 

During the past few decades it was observed that the lagoon ecosystem was under threat with major problems like siltation, choking of the outer channel as well as the inlet mouth, shifting of the inlet, fall in salinity, fresh water weed infestation, decline of fishery resources, and was tending towards a fresh water ecosystem with an overall loss of biodiversity.  Both environmental values and resource development opportunities were threatened by the potential loss of marine influence and lagoon characteristics. 

To save this unique ecosystem a number of ameliorating measures were taken in the past three years, which included opening of a new mouth to improve the salinity and tidal flux of the lagoon.  The lagoon is one of the most important wintering grounds for more than one million migratory birds.  To save this habitat ecosystem, which caters to 14.8, lakh birds of 85 species as per the 1987 census major restoration activities have been taken place such as plantation of the Nala grass a vital component of the habitat, which was destroyed to a great extent due to grazing of buffalo.  Avenues were created for the perching birds with mangrove species.  Creeks were created to improve the habitat and mobility of the boat.  Due to siltation and decrease in salinity the lake is infested with weed.  Hence many measures to reduce weed from the lake were taken which also included installation of 75 number of biogas plants.  The improvement of communication network was also one of the major activities taken up in the surrounding villages.  There were many other allied activities started which included the fishery resource development that was depleting due to the anthropogenic activities and also the upliftment of the economic condition of the thickly populated peripheral villages.  Awareness Centre is being developed in the Satpada area to promote environmental education and awareness amongst the surrounding schools and peripheral villages through Centre for Environment Education.  A Centre for Wetland management was developed to facilitate the studies and research in the filed of Limnology, marine biology, hydrology, coastal influence on the lagoon, floristic and faunistic study, weed analysis, ecological and mathematical modelling, advanced oceanographic and hydrological studies like sediment transport, wave climate, tidal influence, lake bathymetry, hydrographic survey, weed dynamics, meteorological studies.  The centre would provide an excellent insitu advanced research facility in the above field. 

After so many measures being taken to address the immediate problems there have been areas, which still needs to be addressed and taken into consideration.

*              Catchment treatment involving the community by undertaking soil and water management including massive plantation programmes.

*              Environmental education to students in formal education system in and around the lagoon.

*              Taking up various appropriate technology and imparting training to the stakeholders to reduce pressure from the lagoon.

*              Forming of BIRD PROTECTION SANGHs in the villages involving the local youths.

*              Undertaking awareness programmes for the fisher folk against use of Zero-net and poaching of juveniles.

*              Education and awareness on Biodiversity of Chilika, especially rare, threatened and endangered species through Wall paintings, Street theatres and village meetings.

*              Education to the farmers against the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticide

*              Need of attitude, practice and creating facilities for garbage management amongst the peripheral villages and the tourist spots. 

Besides its programme in the Chilika, CEE has been working with water ecosystems in Tamil Nadu as well.  The CEE Tirupur Field Office is working on creating awareness to save the Noyyal River from Industrial pollution and municipal dumping.  On the East Coast of Tamil Nadu, CEE is working in Point Calimere to Campaign for a safe habitat from migratory birds visiting the Point Calimere Sanctuary in Nagapattinam District at the mouth of the River Kavery.