Wetland Conservation

Places in news: Chilika Lake


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chilika Lake

Mains level : Ramsar wetlands in India

The Chilika Lake in Odisha, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, was once part of the Bay of Bengal, a study by the marine archaeology department of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, has found.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. In India, the Himalayas are spread over five States only.
  2. Western Ghats are spread over five States only.
  3. Pulicat Lake is spread over two States only.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Chilika Lake

  • Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha.
  • It is located at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2.
  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the largest brackish water lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
  • It has been listed Ramsar Site as well as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.

Its formation

  • The process of the formation of the Chilika might have begun in the latter part of the Pleistocene epoch, around 20,000 years ago.
  • India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta.
  • As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sand bars were formed near its mouth.
  • These created a backflow of the seawater into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary, resulting in the huge brackish water lake.
  • Marine archaeological studies on the Odisha coast clearly show that the Chilika once acted as a safe harbour for cargo ships bound for Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

Historical accounts on Chilika

The lake has been a useful centre for maritime activities since the third millennium before the Common Era (CE).

  • Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy (150 CE) described Palur as an important port of Kalinga and referred to it as ‘Paloura’.
  • This port was situated close to the ‘point of departure’ located outside the southern tip of the lake at Kantiagarh, from where ships used to sail directly for Southeast Asia.
  • Stone anchors and hero stones from Manikapatna, Palur and the adjoining onshore regions of the Chilika suggest that the present brackish water lagoon was in fact a part of the Bay of Bengal.
  • Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (7th century CE) recorded ‘Che-li-ta-lo-Ching’ as a flourishing port.
  • This port was located at Chhatargarh on the banks of the Chilika.
  • The Brahmanda Purana (10th century CE approximately) says the Chilika was an important centre of trade and commerce, with ships sailing to Java, Malaya and Ceylon.
  • The famous Sanskrit poet Kalidas called the king of Kalinga ‘Madhodhipati’ or ‘Lord of the Ocean’.

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